Inspiration for 'Rosie the Riveter' Dies at 96

Naomi Parker Fraley worked in wartime machine shop
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2018 3:47 AM CST
A woman wears a "Rosie the Riveter"-inspired work uniform to the Women's March on Saturday in downtown Sioux Falls, SD.   (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP)
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(Newser) – Former wartime factory worker Naomi Parker Fraley has died at age 96, years after a discovery that brought her great joy: She's believed to have been the real-life inspiration for the iconic "Rosie the Riveter" poster. Michigan 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. But after years of sleuthing, scholar James Kimble discovered that the photo was actually of Fraley, then 20 years old, working at a turret lathe in the machine shop of the Naval Air Station in Alameda, Calif., in 1942, soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the New York Times reports.

"Pretty Naomi Parker looks like she might catch her nose in the turret lathe she is operating," says the original caption of the photo obtained from a vintage dealer by Kimble, who stresses that Doyle made an honest mistake when she thought she recognized herself in the photo, which can be seen here. Fraley worked at the plant with her younger sister, patching airplane wings, drilling—and riveting. Fraley, who kept the photo after the war and was shocked to see somebody else's name on the displayed image when she visited the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park for a reunion of war workers in 2011, told People in 2016 that she didn't care about fame, but that she was glad to have the record set straight. "The women of this country these days need some icons. If they think I'm one, I'm happy about that," she said. (Read more Rosie the Riveter stories.)

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