First wave of ink + sky postcards!

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The first wave of ink + sky postcards was mailed out yesterday to a group of former students. They live in states including Michigan, Georgia, Ohio, and Illinois. The second wave of postcards departed this morning.

If you are a former student of mine and would like to participate in the Postcard Project, please message me on Facebook. I have three cards remaining. There is no cost for you to be involved; I am taking care of all of the shipping expenses.

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The envelopes pictured above, which I found at STAPLES, feature stamps from the O Beautiful” series that was released by the United States Postal Service on July 4, 2018. Unfortunately, they are no longer available for purchase.

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Note — The image of the “O Beautiful” stamps was found at the United States Postal Service’s website.

Postcard Project

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Dear former students,

This website, ink + sky, functions like a classroom; it is a place for learning, growth, community, and creativity. It is a safe space. Like my former classroom, my blog is not a place for harm or hate.

It is also not a platform for advancing others’ personal agendas or promotional campaigns. We all possess invaluable First Amendment rights, and venues and vehicles exist for us to exercise those rights. Please take advantage of those resources instead of attempting to use ink + sky. Thank you.

Please read the following information carefully before you request a postcard:

Harm

If your response to the writing prompt (“I am trying to figure out…”) suggests any of the following, your postcard will not be published:

  • Harming yourself.
  • Harming someone else.
  • Being harmed by someone else.

For help in these matters, please contact local law enforcement, a health-care provider, and/or a trusted friend or family member.

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Hate

If your response suggests any of the following, your postcard will not be published:

  • Hate language of any kind, including symbols and/or images that represent hate groups, their missions, and/or their tactics.
  • Religious or political criticism.
  • Slurs and/or derogatory language related to gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, ethnic and/or racial identity, age, class, financial status, and disability.
  • Defamation of another’s character.
  • Support for any activity (criminal in nature) that could result in distress to people and/or animals.

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Personal Agendas and Promotional Campaigns 

To exercise your rights of free speech and expression, please consider starting your own blog if you would like to advance a personal agenda or distribute promotional media. 

If your response suggests any of the following, your postcard will not be published:

  • Religious or political commentary. This includes contentious public policy issues (border wall, immigration, health care, etc.).
  • Profanity beyond those words permitted in classrooms (i.e. Mr. Bishop’s).
  • Recreational drug use, even of legal substances (e.g. alcohol and marijuana).
  • Any references to the debates about abortion, gun control, euthanasia, the drinking age, and/or drug legalization.
  • The naming, description, and/or imagery of genitals and/or sexual acts.
  • Advertising for non-profit organizations or for-profit entities (companies, individuals, etc.).
  • Marketing (web addresses, phone numbers, street addresses, QR codes, etc.).
  • Publicity for gangs and/or gang membership.
  • “Secret codes” of numbers, letters, and/or symbols that could be used to transmit information to others in order to advance a personal agenda.

Classroom

My blog, ink + sky, functions like a classroom; it is a place for learning, growth, community, and creativity. It is a safe space.

Assuming you have read this far — and that you agree to the parameters described above — please message me on Facebook and include this phrase: make it count. I will mail you a pre-stamped postcard like the one below. Directions are printed on its reverse side. The rest is up to you.

Note — A limited number of postcards have been created. Please request one only if you are committed to completing it and mailing it back to me. I am covering all of the expenses of this writing project. Be mindful of that fact.

We are all people first.

Sincerely,
Mr. Bishop

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Note — The photograph featuring the “no hate” sign was taken by T. Chick McClure, and it is available on unsplash.com. The image of the binder and bar chart is by rawpixel, and it was obtained from unsplash.com.

Guest Spotlight — MT’s Greenroom Journal

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If this notebook’s black cover leads you to suspect that its backstory might be ominous, think again. The narrative behind it is full of light. Margaret Trudeau’s 6″ x 8″ journal is a product of Greenroom, an innovative producer of eco-conscious writing materials founded by Southern California’s David Imbernino and his wife, Hyun Mi Oh. The husband-and-wife team is anything but subdued, as their diverse and often colorful line of notebooks, binders, greeting cards, and stationery can attest. When the light hits Margaret’s journal, those gold foil dots sparkle like droplets of water on a seal’s back.

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What does the company’s name refer to? In surf culture, the greenroom is — according to greenroomeco.com — the “perfect space inside the curve of a wave when the water completely encircles the surfer.” The man below, who was captured by photographer Jeremy Bishop, is experiencing the fleeting beauty and power of this space.

All of Greenroom’s products feature recycled paper and soy-based inks, two qualities that reduce their impact on Mother Nature. As a college senior with a keen awareness of her place in the natural world, Margaret is someone who reduces her carbon footprint when possible — so this 190-page journal, which is composed of 60-70% recycled materials, is an obvious fit.

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As a busy young woman who is finishing her last year at the University of Michigan, preparing for her wedding in 2020, and planning for a move to Lansing in the summer, Margaret keeps many balls in the air. And that is one reason why she was drawn to journaling last year. She explains: “With so much going on, setting aside time to reflect is a necessary meditation for my daily schedule.”

Let’s let Margaret, who will soon be earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in American Culture with a minor in Digital Studies, explain how she uses her notebook:

“Many of my classes cover philosophical arguments that bring up more questions than answers. This journal is a great way for me to form my own arguments, angrily scribble my annoyances (if necessary), and plan for future events and assignments. The content of my journal ebbs and flows with my mood; however, many features remain constant:”

  • List making: I am prone to making lists of things I need to do, upcoming exams and due dates, and items to be packed for vacations and weekend trips. These lists take the form of pros/cons, weekly schedules, and creative project descriptions.
  • Planning: The freshness of a new page excites the part of me that likes to plan four steps (read: four months) ahead. Many wedding plans, coursework requirements, vacations, apartment hunting thoughts, and job search updates are to be found in my journal.

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  • Sarcasm: At times, the beauty of journaling makes itself apparent in the moment for me, when overhearing nearby conversations to which I wish to respond, for example. The privacy of a journal holds my comments safely inside for my entertainment. Excerpt from 1.10.19, second day of my last semester of undergrad school: “SI 410. First meeting. I’m sandwiched between two men who seem to disregard their showers.”
  • Reflection and observation: Many entries in my journal are a digestion of my day, which lends itself nicely to comprehending conversations and observing the world around me. Excerpt from 12.5.18. Writing about what life will look like as we move to Lansing, and what opportunities are there for me. “In Lansing, there is Michigan State (the enemy), and the State of Michigan (funny how prepositions rearrange a college into a government).”

When Margaret is laying down ink on the page, she uses Pilot G2 Ultra Fine Point (0.38mm) black pens. You can learn more about these high-quality gel-ink pens on ink + sky’s Materials page.

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Margeret’s preferred mode of transfer is cursive (not print). Why? She “[finds] the cursive font encourages an unending flow of information and thought.”

Before she dashes back out into the welcoming surf of her daily life, Margaret has these final words to share: “I thoroughly enjoy journaling, and having a record of my thoughts helps to keep track of where I’ve been, and where I’m going in all parts of life.”

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If you are looking for Greenroom notebooks, binders, or stationery, you have two options: your local Target store, or Target.com. In 2005, Greenroom formed an exclusive partnership with the national retailer; therefore, you won’t find its unique, eco-friendly products at office supply stores or Amazon.com.

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Note — The photograph of the surfer and the woman wearing a watch were taken by Jeremy Bishop, and they were obtained from Unsplash.com. The photograph of the seal was captured by British photographer Samuel Scrimshaw, and it was borrowed from Unsplash.com. The photograph of the two pairs of shoes was taken by Marc A. Sporys and is available at Unsplash.com. The image of the Pilot G2 pens was taken from Target.com. The image of the Target puppy gift card was found on wdwinfo.com.

I wonder about a bookstore…

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Would you support this small business in Lake Orion? Or would you browse, leave, and order books on Amazon for 20% less with FREE 2-day shipping? Please answer *honestly* below. I’m curious. And serious. 🙂

That new building at 120 South Broadway? I walked by it yesterday. Would an indy bookstore REALLY survive in our community? Your dollars would determine its success.

Amazon will always be cheaper — and open 24/7. You are probably a Prime member. Just click and the books arrive at your door. So easy, right?

Lake Orion: Where living is a vacation. 🌞

What if LO was also a place of culture, curiosity, and enlightenment?

Would you pay for that?

Postscript to a meal

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If dessert marks the close of dinner, then a thank-you card serves as its postscript — an after-the-event affirmation of hours well spent and company fully valued. In this era of instant messages and time constraints, however, the thank-you card is often disregarded as either unnecessary or anachronistic. These beliefs could not be further from the truth. Rarely will a tweet or emoji-punctuated text make a memorable impression on a host. But a card featuring a personal greeting almost always will.

This blog post documents the process of preparing one such card for transit.

Two nights ago I enjoyed a wonderful evening of food and fellowship in the home of a dear friend. She and her husband — a man talented in both the woodworking studio and the kitchen — prepared a hearty meal of parmesan-encrusted chicken, cold corn-and-pepper salad with citrus vinegar dressing, steaming brown rice with peas, and freshly-baked cheese-herb bread pulled from a cast-iron skillet. Two other guests (my best friend and his wife) agreed that the fare was delicious.

After the meal, the five of us retired to the great room, where we sat in front of the fireplace and traded accounts of recent travels, memories of family courtships, and updates on hobbies ranging from photography to hatchet-throwing. As can occur on evenings spent indoors while wind rushes through snow-draped trees, time seemed to slow. Meanwhile, digestion proceeded steadily within our bellies. And before we knew it the hostess produced parfaits of fresh raspberries, brownie bites, and fluffy whipped cream. Our discussion continued as spoons clinked lightly while teasing the chilled dessert from tall glasses.

After returning home that night I dove into my supply of cards in search of the right thank-you to honor such a wonderful evening. The one I selected is pictured above. This card, which I purchased for $1 at Trader Joe’s, features artwork by printmaker Yoskiko Yamamoto (pictured below) of The Arts & Crafts Press in Tacoma, WA. Yamamoto and her husband, Bruce Smith, founded TA&CP in 1996. All of their publications “have been letterpress printed and bound by hand.” Please check out ArtsAndCraftsPress.com for an amazing selection of limited-edition woodblock prints, stationery, coasters, calendars, and more.

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To my pleasant surprise, I realized that the hanging lamp on this card features a mission-style design. The same aesthetic is found on the beautiful handmade furniture in the host-couple’s great room. (The husband built it!) Mission furniture emerged in the United States in the late 1890s, and got its name from California’s Spanish-style missions. The furniture’s focus on simple horizontal and vertical lines — often showcased in oak tables, chairs, and chests — contrasts with the ornate Victorian furniture that had long been popular at the time.

Mission furniture, which is linked to the Arts and Crafts movement, was produced by several famous artisans including Gustav Stickley (1858-1942), an American born from German immigrants. A number of fascinating resources exist for learning more about this influential furniture manufacturer including The Stickley Museum in Fayetteville, NY and the 20th century estate home that he designed (now a National Historic Landmark) at The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms in Morris Plains, NJ.

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My first step in preparing the card was working through a rough draft of the greeting by scribbling initial thoughts on a tablet. I almost always do this so that I do not make silly word-choice mistakes or run out of room when writing on the card itself.

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Switching from print to cursive (which I find more smooth and formal) I then edited the draft even further while transferring it to the card’s interior. Observe the date in the upper-right corner, something that I believe every hand-written missive should possess so that the recipient — who is likely going to keep it — can place it accurately in history. Note — The salutation is unfinished in this photograph, but was completed prior to inserting the card into its envelope.

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With the greeting composed, I next needed to choose a stamp to apply to the white envelope. I had a full sheet of “O Beautiful” stamps, which the U.S. Postal Service released on July 4, 2018. Each row of the stamps corresponds to a line from “America the Beautiful.” What we know today as one of our country’s most patriotic songs was actually first a poem published in 1895 by poet and social activist Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929). The bright and varied colors of these stamps make them perfect for white envelopes.

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I chose the fourth stamp in “The Fruited Plain” series (second row from bottom) because it contained a collection of purples, greens, and golds that was similar to the colors in Yoshiko Yamamoto’s woodblock print. There is no reason that a stamp needs to coordinate with a card, but I found the parallels in palette to be very pleasing.

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Postscript (or “PS) — The next time you are invited to a home-cooked meal, please send your host a card or brief note to recognize the occasion. He/she will appreciate the hand-written message of gratitude, and I suspect that you will feel a surge of pride and accomplishment for honoring the time, care, and attention that the host invested on your behalf. A thank-you card is always a sign of good taste.

Note — The photograph of Yoshiko Yamamoto was obtained from a 2016 article on the website of Spaceworks Tacoma. The photograph of Gustav Stickley was found on the website for The Stickley Museum in Fayetteville, NY.

Better than a Wookiee’s kiss

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

For my best friend’s birthday, I wanted to send a greeting card that would honor both a celebration that occurs only once per year — and the fact that STAR WARS serves as a key narrative extending back through the many years of our friendship.

Having grown up during the late 1970s and early 80s, he and I are fans of George Lucas‘ original space trilogy and the numerous ways it shaped our developing minds. As kids we stood in awe of the paradoxical strength and gentleness of the Force, and we reveled in the colorful characters who helped us understand that good and evil are not always so far apart. As adults we acknowledge that these lessons still influence our lives, and we recognize that cosmic conflicts starring Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher can play out in everyday encounters set in Whole Foods or Crate & Barrel.

So when I glimpsed the ominously-shadowed Death Star while browsing through the Wonderfolds 3D offerings at my local Hallmark store, I knew immediately that I had found the perfect birthday greeting. This was the card I was looking for — and I moved along to the register to barter with the clerks.

Hallmark’s Wonderfolds cards, which are available in over 50 different styles to recognize occasions from weddings to graduations, range in price from $6 to $10. Unless Han Solo can smuggle one out of your nearest store in his Millennium Falcon, the STAR WARS card will set you back $7.99. This may seem like an excessive price for “just a card,” but I assure you that it is a reasonable bounty given its unique features.

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There are several qualities of this gift that I really appreciate:

  • First and foremost — its 3D structure allows it to stand up securely on a dresser, table, or desk. Therefore, it exists as not only a card, but a small celebratory artifact — an intergalactic paperboard statue whose folds are more rugged than an origami crane, yet just as visually pleasing.
  • Second — the card has two sides presenting two distinct themes: one for the Rebel Alliance, and one for the Empire. Traditional open-and-close birthday cards rarely feature dual images like this, so I love that this one pays homage to heroes and villains in separate but equally-compelling ways. Each side gathers together a half-dozen key characters who are arranged in a compact, colorful display.
  • Third — the characters look like the actors who filled those roles. You don’t feel the disagreeable sensation of wondering why Luke Skywalker bears little resemblance to Mark Hamill. In fact, the image of Obi-Wan Kenobi looks startlingly like the legendary British actor Sir Alec Guinness (1914-2000).
  • Fourth — the centrally-placed STAR WARS logo, which is formed from silver foil, is suspended by two tiny pieces of fishing line from its paperboard enclosure. As a result, the logo rocks gently back and forth with shifts of wind; this movement is subtle, but it is more than sufficient for the silver logo to reflect light and catch the eyes of passersby. Few open-and-close cards possess a moving part that functions when the card is on display (e.g. stuck to the refrigerator with a magnet, etc.).

This card has a fifth feature that would be worthy of a bullet-point if it were not for one fundamental flaw. The Wonderfolds’ packaging touts that it “INCLUDES REMOVABLE CARD,” which is a reference to the tiny piece shown below:

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Although this separate pull-out card’s exterior carries bold red-and-white lettering, its interior is disappointing. Rather than being formed from white paperboard, the inside is dark gray — a color that significantly interferes with the visibility of any color ink. Therefore, if you wish to pen a greeting for the recipient, your words will be nearly invisible against the dark background. For a dime more per card, Hallmark could have prevented this seemingly obvious limitation. After all, there is no where else on the 8-inch-tall 3D display to write “happy birthday” or “best wishes.” Even a dismantled droid would know better!

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For a thick, oversized card like this one, additional postage is required. In this case, $1.21 was necessary. Curiously, when the envelope arrived at my friend’s house, the three stamps that fueled its flight were not cancelled. (?) The Force must have been with this happy-birthday missive as it made the jump to first-class speed.

What if you are not a STAR WARS fan? Should you still consider the Wonderfolds series? I believe so. Although several of the cards feature only moderately-inspiring graphics, many are very appealing in their unique and eye-catching presentations. Here are two of my favorites, which possess strikingly different — yet equally creative — aesthetics:

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Yes, this circus-themed card offers both light and sound — carnival music!

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For a “just because” occasion, this lotus and dragonfly card serves as a beautiful momento to display on a bookshelf or deep window sill.


If you are a die-hard STAR WARS fan — or would simply like to learn more about the original trilogy and/or the latest film previews, collectibles, and events — please see the official StarWars.com website.

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Note — The images of the Wonderfolds cards were obtained from Hallmark.com. They are available at local stores and online.

Guest Spotlight — JH’s “She Believed” Journal

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As a respected educator who is involved in numerous district and county programs, Jennifer Howe embodies the ethos of the affirmation featured on her journal: She Believed She Could So She Did. In her professional role as a German and English teacher at Lake Orion High School, Jennifer has spent her career helping students believe in their potential while she has continually pushed her own.

At home, Jennifer is just as engaged as she is in her classroom. She and her husband, who live in Auburn Hills, MI, have two daughters who are active, curious, and full of their mother’s eagerness to engage with the world. These qualities will help the girls make the most of their family’s first international trip, which will take them and their parents to Germany this summer.

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Germany’s town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Jennifer has a long history with personal writing, beginning with a diary that she maintained in elementary school. Only a few years later, one of her favorite journals was formed when she was a student in a creative writing class in high school. That notebook is one that she still revisits. When Jennifer moved on to college she journaled on a computer for a while (saving the entries to disc), but then migrated back to paper. During the summer of 2018 she journaled steadily, but her return to teaching in the fall cut down on the frequency of her opening the cover.

With the dawning of the New Year, Jennifer recommited to personal writing. She dedicates at least 5 minutes per day to journaling, most often in the early morning when her home is quiet. She finds journaling beneficial because it allows her to, “remember important events, to clear [her] mind, or work through challenges.” With wide-ruled pages and an 8.5″ x 11″ size, her notebook provides ample space for all three. Amazon.com currently has the She Believed journal, which 67% of reviewers provide with a 5-star rating, priced at only $4.99

Traditionally, Jennifer composes in cursive, using Pilot G2 gel ink pens — a favorite among many writers, including the author of this blog post. However, her 8-year-old daughter has recently convinced her to give another option a try: Paper Mate’s Flair Pens. One can be seen in the top photograph. These felt tip pens, which are available in several dozen colors as well as three different point variations (medium, fine, and extra-fine), hold a special place at her daughter’s school: they can only be used when students are writing (i.e. not for artwork or doodling).

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The cover of Jennifer’s journal features a powerful phrase, “she believed she could so she did,” whose original author is unknown. Based on web research data, we know that it has been circulating on-line since the early 2000s. Curiously, what is also shaded by a degree of uncertainty is arguably the most iconic image — and slogan — used to promote female empowerment in recent decades: the Westinghouse Electric Corporation’s “We Can Do It!” poster.

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In 1942, the Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Corporation, which manufactured numerous electrical devices including turbines and generators, hired graphic artist J. Howard Miller (ca. 1915-1990) to create a series of posters to promote the efforts of the company’s internal War Production Co-Ordinating Committee. Very little is known about Miller, who earned a degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1939 and was living in that city during World War II. Even his birth and death dates are uncertain. But the impact of his illustration is now legendary, and it continues to grow.

However, a significant misconception regarding the poster is prominent today because the name “Rosie the Riveter” identifies several other artifacts from the World War II era — namely a song and a painting featured on a magazine cover. Despite what many people believe, J. Howard Miller’s boldly-colored poster was not designed to rally public support for the war effort, and neither has it served as a symbol of female empowerment since the 1940s. Rather, the poster — which was essentially invisible to the public during the War — was seen by few Americans until the 1980s.

In a remarkable New York Times article from January 22, 2018, Dr. James J. Kimball of Seton Hall University is quoted as saying that, “It turns out that almost everything we think about Rosie the Riveter is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong.”

Although Miller’s poster was revealed in 1943, its reach was very restricted. It did not become a cultural symbol of patriotism and women’s strength during the wartime years. Instead, the poster was only on display inside a few Westinghouse manufacturing plants for several weeks in February of 1943 until it was replaced by the next one in the series. Notice the small “Post Feb. 15 to Feb. 28” instruction found in the lower-left corner of the image. Miller designed 42 posters — most featuring men — and their goals were to boost morale and reduce absenteeism among Westinghouse’s factory workers.

Rather than Miller’s poster, it was a painting by famed American artist Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) that became a national symbol during the 1940s. Rockwell’s painting, which graced the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943, was entitled “Rosie the Riveter.” The name of the painting references a popular song with the same title that was produced in 1942 and recorded by several musicians. It was Rockwell’s painting — not Miller’s illustration — that became widespread during World War II. In fact, Rockwell’s rugged and defiant Rosie (her feet rest on a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf) was so popular that The Post allowed the U.S. Department of Treasury to use it to market war bonds.

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It was not until the 1980s, when Miller’s 17″ x 22″ poster was rediscovered, that it began to creep into the national consciousness and started serving as an influential vehicle for promoting women’s strength and capabilities. “Rosie the Riveter” definitely was an extremely influential cultural concept in the 1940s, but the “We Can Do It!” illustration was not. A fascinating history of J. Howard Miller’s poster — and the ways its likeness has been utilized by innumerable people and organizations since its public rebirth in the 1980s — can be found here.

Today, some journals like Jennifer Howe’s feature affirming slogans of women accomplishing what they set their sights on. And whether those goals involve riveting, writing, or reforming standards in business or civic affairs, the “we can — and do” message continues to spread. Jennifer’s two daughters will undoubtedly carry on that tradition. In fact, they are likely already doing so.

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Note — The image of J. Howard Miller’s poster was obtained from the website of The National Museum of American History. The photograph of Germany’s Rothenburg ob der Tauber was taken by Roman Kraft, and it was obtained from Unsplash.com. The image of the cover of The Saturday Evening Post was found on the website for the Norman Rockwell Museum. Finally, the image of the “She Believed” journal featured at the bottom of this post was borrowed from Amazon.com.