As the US entered World War II, Rosalind Walter (nee Palmer) was enjoying a comfortable life as "a dark-tressed society doll," the Washington Post quotes a decades-old article on her as saying. The Long Island resident signed up to build Corsair fighter planes nonetheless, becoming the subject of a newspaper column and then a 1942 song called "Rosie the Riveter." After all, rivets were Walter's specialty. "That little frail can do more than a male can do," went the song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb, which "captured a historical moment that helped sow the seeds of the women’s movement," per the New York Times. But Walter, who died at her Manhattan home on Wednesday at age 95, was more than the original inspiration behind the archetype of hard-working, wartime women.
The Brooklyn, NY, native was also a philanthropist and huge supporter of public television. She was one of PBS's main benefactors and "the most generous individual supporter of WNET in its history," according to an obituary. Walter, the daughter of the chairman of a drug company that's now part of Bristol Myers Squibb, had attended a college preparatory boarding school before giving up her chance at college to join the war effort; she saw public television as giving her some of the education she missed out on, per the Times. Along with her second husband—Henry Glendon Walter Jr., the CEO of International Flavors & Fragrances, whom she married in 1956—she would also donate to Long Island University, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Pierpont Morgan Library. (The model for Norman Rockwell's iconic 1943 Rosie the Riveter painting died in 2015.)