21

In this image who or what is the lady in the background representing?

enter image description here

  • 6
    Is it necessarily a picture of any real woman, any more than the soldiers are real individuals? Any competent artist should be able to draw such a picture from imagination. – jamesqf Dec 10 '16 at 4:17
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    @jamesqf, I don't see any reason to infer that the OP thinks she's "necessarily" a real woman. – Anton Sherwood Dec 11 '16 at 1:12
  • 1
    @jamesqf I hadn't even considered that the woman might be a specific individual or model, I was under the assumption that she represented something about the US or the Army as a whole. – Patrick Schomburg Dec 12 '16 at 14:35
  • Since when did American soldiers wear stylin' fedoras in combat? – SPavel Mar 15 '17 at 21:33
  • @SPavel I assume when they are killing natives. – Patrick Schomburg Mar 17 '17 at 14:02
44

That would be Columbia, a female personification of the United States. She's largely been replaced by imagery based on the Statue of Liberty.

She's portrayed wearing a laurel wreath, an important Roman symbol of military victory, and holding out another one, which is clearly intended for the soldiers the poster is trying to recruit. There's a bit of Victoria, the Roman goddess of military victory in there, and some of Nike, her Greek equivalent, too.

  • 2
    Interestingly, France, Britain, and Russia also have female personifications (though I don't know if they are still used today). Here is an image I found on Wikipedia. – Kodos Johnson Dec 10 '16 at 2:14
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    Britania, the personification of Britain was on all the British coins until 2008, and Marianne, the personification of France, is on coins, stamps, and has a bust in every town hall. – John Dallman Dec 10 '16 at 7:41
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    @KodosJohnson whenever France is mentioned with regard to a woman or painting, I immediately think of Liberty Leading the People. That image, in my mind, is the most strongly connected image of a woman and France. – BruceWayne Dec 10 '16 at 16:10
  • What about her suggests Columbia rather than Victory? – Anton Sherwood Dec 11 '16 at 1:10
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    @AntonSherwood - Victoria has a bird on her head and Nike has wings. Neither of them is listed as one of the USA's national personifications, although this author alludes to the fact that there's "a bit" all of them in there; you'd have to ask the illustrator. - "Winged figures, very often in pairs, [represent] victory [...]" –Victoria – Mazura Dec 11 '16 at 3:24
6

That was Columbia, as in Columbia the Gem of the Ocean.

Written in 1843, the song was America's unofficial national anthem, which was a reference to the unofficial name of "America," in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was particularly popular in World War I.

Both the song and the nickname lost their relative popularity after the adoption of the "Star Spangled Banner" as the national anthem in 1931. The current anthem was a reference to the War of 1812 (against Britain), whereas "Columbia" was an "American" reference shared with Britain (whose Canadian Commonwealth country has a province called British Columbia, which is the northern part of what the Americans used to call the "Oregon" territory).

4
+50

This woman represents victory (this is a WWII recruitment poster). You can see this by the laurels she waves, and wears on her head.

If you wish to know who is the model for this woman, please indicate where you found this poster.

  • 1
    Several of the illustrations (most of which are recruitment posters) on Columbia's Wiki page show her adorned with the American flag, either wearing it, or with it in the background (just as this one does). Victoria's does not, and when I try to google American Victoria recruitment poster, what shows up are mostly renditions of Personified Columbia in a floppy hat, as well as Lady Liberty and Lady Justice. – Mazura Dec 11 '16 at 3:44

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