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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • RAINIER NATIONAL PARK: c. 1920s

St. Patty's Night: 1944

St. Patty's Night: 1944

March 1944. Washington, D.C. St. Patrick's Day dance at the Washington labor canteen, sponsored by the United Federal Workers of America, Congress of Industrial Organizations. View full size. Medium format safety negative by Joseph A. Horne for the Office of War Information.

 

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Muscular taboos

Oh my, so apparently women shouldn't be endowed with strong leg muscles, nor should they be stocky or slightly tomboyish. I should stop working out. Or else some people need to get over their sex-typing hangups. -C

"Woman" in skirt

Is probably NOT a woman, but a man in a skit [skirt?]. Look closely at the leg muscles, what look to be cut-off long-johns ('union' johns), and the mismatched socks.

[It's a girl, and here she is (below) on a different night wearing the same top, shoes and socks. Such active imaginations some of you have! This was one of maybe half a dozen comments theorizing/vehemently insisting that this was a man in drag. (At a St. Patrick's Day dance in 1940s Washington attended by servicemen in uniform. Hello?) - Dave]

The Dance

Well, if I was the woman in the skirt, I would have hunted down Horne and beaten him up! That's about the most unflattering angle I've ever seen, on a woman who on closer inspection doesn't seem to have a big butt after all.
And yeah, the crowd might be racially mixed, but the two white women can only dance with each other, not with any of the black dudes. I wouldn't dance with that pasty big Navy guy on the left, either.

[Actually there was (gasp!) interracial dancing at this party. - Dave]

D.C. Labor Canteen

You raise an interesting point. However, the photograph was taken at a union function, which may well have been a more progressive crowd than the 1944 norm. In any case, integrated nightclubs and dancehalls certainly existed in New York City in the 1940s, perhaps integrated venues existed in DC as well.

UFWA-CIO

This is the second time we've noted a mixed racial audience in Horne's photos of a United Federal Workers function. The other is "The Party Committee" and suggests to me that this union at least took a certain amount of pride in being desegregated. On the other hand the photos might have been part of the push to get Americans of all races to feel that "we're all in this together." I suppose it all depends on who Horne was working for when he shot these photos.

D.C. Dancers

Interesting to me is the racially mixed audience in 1944.

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