Real Rosie the Riveter, Naomi Parker Fraley, dead at 96


The poster, by the Pittsburgh artist J Howard Miller, depicted a wartime woman worker in a work shirt and red polka-dot bandanna, flexing her bicep, with the caption "We Can Do It!". Promulgated across the home front during the war years, Fraley's portrait would outlive the war and establish an indefinite place in the American visual lexicon, most recently appearing on posters at Saturday's national Women's Marches.

Among those who backed Fraley's claim as being the poster's likely inspiration was James J. Kimble, an associate professor of communication and the arts at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, who spent six years researching the image.

Eventually, he was able prove that Fraley was, in fact, the real Rosie, which he reported in a 2016 article in Rhetoric & Public Affairs.

For most of her life though, Naomi Parker Fraley wasn't recognised as the image's original inspiration.

Naomi Parker Fraley was 20 years old when she and her younger sister, Ada, went to work at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California, following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. MI factory worker Geraldine Doyle, who died in 2010, was long thought to have been the woman in a bandanna working at an industrial lathe in a photo that inspired artist J. Howard Miller. Fraley had seen the Miller poster and thought it looked like her.

"I couldn't believe it", she told The Oakland Tribune in 2016.

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When he first read the caption naming Parker Fraley, Mr Kimble assumed she was dead and set about trying to track down relatives through a genealogical society.

As this fascinating report in The New York Times details, many women have laid claim to inspiring the poster. It's believed Miller based the "We Can Do It" poster on a 1942 newspaper photograph of a female war worker. "I knew it was actually me in the photo".

"I was amazed", Fraley said.

It wasn't until 2009 when Fraley saw it publicized at a convention that she realized she was Rosie the Riveter. "The amusing thing is she was a humble person and she didn't care", Blankenship said.

One picture was of Fraley at the lathe, which was originally used to deglamorize women in the war and show them what to properly wear in the workforce.