This black-and-white photograph shows a woman in overalls with her hair wrapped in a kerchief. Seated on a table, she is smoking a cigarette while gazing at a Bren machine gun. A factory building is visible through the window behind her.

Unknown 

 

Veronica Foster, an employee of John Inglis Co. Ltd., known as “The Bren Gun Girl,” taking a break on the Bren Gun production line, Toronto, Ont., May 10, 1941

1941

Black and white photograph, cellulose nitrate
National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque, no. R1196-14-7-F
Photo Library, National Archives of Canada, Accession number PA-119766, item WRM 820, 1971-271 NPC


In this unattributed photograph, Veronica Foster, known as “The Bren Gun Girl,” is presented as an idealized model of patriotic women working for the war effort. Staged like pin-up shot, it associates skill with sensuality, showing her seated on a table stroking the barrel of a machine gun with her fingertips. The image was designed not only for a male audience but to sell young women on the idea that factory work was an exciting adventure. The low-angle view and the strong diagonals created by the background architecture lend a dynamic quality to the industrial scene.


The Bren Gun Girl is part of a large collection of images assembled by the National Film Board’s Still Photography Division between 1940 and 1970. The purpose of these unity-themed photographs was to disseminate a positive, cohesive image of Canada in newspapers, magazines and government publications. The patriotic campaign was based on the widespread distribution of carefully chosen pictures in everyday situations, which made it a very effective kind of propaganda. 

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