Naomi Parker Fraley, Rosie the Riveter passes at 96
“The women of this country these days need some icons,” Mrs. Fraley said in the People magazine interview. “If they think I’m one, I’m happy.”- The New York Times
This is a photo I grew up seeing quite often. I’m astounded that it took me so long to see the headlines that the woman behind it had passed away last month. It made me wonder, “What is the actual background to the famous Rosie the Riveter photo?”
I had always felt that the poster was showing the strength of the women who worked during World War II. I just hadn’t thought about how the photo came to be. As a teenager, I absolutely loved how beautiful AND strong “Rosie” looked. When P!nk embodied Rosie for one of her videos in 2010, even for a few seconds, I believe it brought my attention to how strong the message behind one photo can be.
Many people have opposing views of the photo, along with the song featured in the music video found below. So, what is the story behind the photo and of the woman in it?
“We Can Do It!”
While the poster was produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 to boost the morale of the women working, it wasn’t seen very often. Only 1800 copies were made and used in Westinghouse Electric factories. It was only later on in the 1980’s when it was rediscovered, that it was used to promote feminism and other political subjects.
“After its rediscovery, observers often assumed that the image was always used as a call to inspire women workers to join the war effort. However, during the war the image was strictly internal to Westinghouse, displayed only during February 1943, and was not for recruitment but to exhort already-hired women to work harder.” –We Can Do It!
When the image was first produced, the famous term of “Rosie” had not come to be yet. This only happened later on, when one of my favourite artists, Norman Rockwell, used the image as inspiration behind a 1943 cover of The Saturday Evening Post.. Using a woman named Mary Keefe as his model, a woman is found sitting on a lunch box as she takes a break from working in a factory. On this lunch box, the name “Rosie” appears. Those who saw this cover then recognized this to be “Rosie the Riveter” from the familiar song.
The Woman in the Photo
In 1994, the image was used for the cover of Smithsonian magazine. It was at this time, that a woman named Geraldine Hoff Doyle saw the cover, and told everyone that it was a photo based on her. Innocently believing that she was in fact the woman who inspired the photo, she was honoured by several organizations.
It was only in 2015, that it was discovered that it was not a photo of Doyle, but rather of a woman named Naomi Parker (Fraley). Fraley had been a factory worker in 1942, which was before Doyle had even graduated high school. The photo was then used in the local press, on July 5, 1942.
Fraley had known in 2011 that there was an error in who the woman in the photo was. She had attended a reunion held at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park. It was there that she spotted the 1942 photo of her operating a machine with Doyle’s name credited. She wrote to the park to correct their mistake.
This is the photo that is now being said to have been the inspiration behind the Rosie the Riveter image.
The investigation of who the woman behind the image was, lead a Dr. Kimble to find Fraley. When he found her, she had in her possession the above photo, clipped from the newspaper from 1942. Naomi Parker Fraley passed away at the age of 96, on January 20, 2018.