Naomi Parker Fraley, the real Rosie the Riveter

The story of the real women who inspired the enduring icon”Rosie the Riveter” has been in the news this week. Naomi Parker Fraley passed away on Saturday at the age of 96. Her death has created interest in her story, and the other woman who innocently claimed her title after seeing herself in the image by J Howard Miller.

Nineteen million women went to work during World War II. The poster was designed to be exhibited in the Westinghouse electric plants to boost morale and for a time it was only viewed within the factory. It wasn’t until years later that the poster became a cultural icon, re-imagined by many and printed on a host of products and in countless magazines.

The big band leader Kay Kyser pushed Rosie in the spotlight with his 1942 national hit song about her. Norman Rockwell’s Post cover in 1943 showed a woman with Rosie on her lunchbox that people recognized from the song.  Rosie had entered the public imagination as an icon.

Famous Palm Springs restaurant where Naomi Parker worked

Rosie would not be attributed to Fraley until 2016 when a professor tracked her down and set the record straight. She was photographed in the early 1940’s for the Oakland Post, which was likely the photo that Miller used as his inspiration for Rosie. She lived and worked in California, including being a waitress at the famous–and now closed–Palm Springs restaurant “The Doll House”.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle, the woman known as Rosie until 2016

Geraldine Hoff Doyle was considered to be Rosie until 2016 when she innocently claimed to be the inspiration for the image. Obviously, it is hard to narrow down all the inspirations that were in Miller’s mind when he painted Rosie. Today, even if Rosie is a likeness of Fraley and not Doyle–she is the representation of all the women who went to work for the war effort, and beyond that of strong women everywhere.

“Rosie at work”

“We can do it” is a simple but profound message of hope and strength. Fraley said it well in a 2016 interview with People,”The women of this country these days need some icons, if they think I’m one, I’m happy about that.” We are too, thank you Rosie–the icon and the women who inspired it.