YMCA poster by Neysa McMein, 1917
During World War I, the YMCA recruited more than 25,000 workers—5,000+ of them women—to staff canteens where, like the young woman pictured here, they gave out hot coffee and books to American soldiers near the Western Front.
This striking poster is one of many created by the illustrator Neysa McMein (1889–1949), who traveled across France entertaining the troops in 1918 and was made an honorary noncommissioned officer in the Marine Corps. Before and after the war, McMein marched for women’s suffrage. The young women in her magazine covers for Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, and the Saturday Evening Post always had a certain look: a confident, modern New Woman. McMein created ad campaigns for Cadillac, Lucky Strike cigarettes, and Palmolive soap—but her most famous creation was Betty Crocker, General Mills’s famous fictional housewife, who appeared unchanged from 1936 until an update in 1955.
Poster Collection of the Schlesinger Library