Naomi Parker Fraley, Rosie the Riveter, Dies at 96
Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2018
Naomi Parker Fraley, better known as “Rosie the Riveter,” featured in the infamous “We Can Do It” war propaganda poster, has passed away at 96.
Rosie the Riveter Dies at 96
In 1942, 20-year-old Naomi Parker Fraley was one of the many women who stepped up to the plate to support the U.S. war effort by joining the workforce.
She worked in the machine shop (performing duties such as riveting and patching the wings of planes) at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California, when a photographer took a photo of her on the job. Wearing a naval mechanic jumpsuit and a red polka dot bandana around her head, her image later became an iconic poster for the feminist movement of the late 20th century.
Perhaps one of the most interesting twists in the story is that for decades, Parker Fraley was not acknowledged as the real Rosie the Riveter. Part of the confusion that occurred over Rosie’s true identity stemmed from the fact that the name “Rosie the Riveter,” was used in several artifacts — including a famous Norman Rockwell image and wartime song.
For many years, a woman named Geraldine Hoff Doyle was depicted as Rosie the Riveter, stalling Parker Fraley's claim to fame for more than 70 years, until finally, a professor did some detective work to track down the real Rosie.
The History of Rosie
In 1943 Norman Rockwell designed an image that was featured on the cover of the May edition of the Saturday Evening Post, of a woman in a jumpsuit with a rivet gun and a lunchbox that read, “Rosie.” In Rockwell’s representation of the strong female laborer, Adolph Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” was featured under Rosie’s foot. The model, who posed for Rockwell’s depiction of Rosie, was known as a woman from Vermont, named Mary Doyle Keefe.
Rockwell’s version of Rosie was associated with a popular wartime song released in 1943 (the same year that the Rockwell image was featured on the cover of the Post). The song was called “Rosie the Riveter.” It was written by Jacob Loeb and Redd Evans and told the story of a munitions worker who is “A part of the assembly line... she’s making history. Working for victory... Rosie the Riveter." But, the song was about a completely different Rosie; a Long Island woman who was a riveter on fighter planes, named Rosalind P. Walter.
At some point in history, between the two famous versions of Rosie, the wartime propaganda, “We Can Do It” poster was produced. The poster was briefly displayed by the Westinghouse company in 1943. The original poster was created by artist J. Howard Miller, to encourage women to join the wartime workforce. It became a famous historical World War II artifact, featuring a representation of a strong female factory worker.
In the 1980’s the “We Can Do It” poster became wildly popular again. The image was reprinted on coffee mugs and other marketing media to commemorate World War II. At the same time, it became a symbol for the women’s rights movement. The woman in the poster became the most widely recognized image of Rosie the Riveter.
From the 1980s, forward, Doyle was identified as the mysterious woman and real-life Rosie the Riveter up until Doyle’s death in 2010.
The Real Rosie the Riveter
James J. Kimble, an associate professor at Seton Hall University, in New Jersey, developed an interest in historical World War II propaganda used in the United States. The “We Can Do It” poster become an item of great significance to Kimble, who began a six-year search to find the person in the original illustration of Rosie the Riveter. The search for the real Rosie started in 2010, “It turns out that almost everything we think about Rosie the Riveter is wrong,” Kimble, told The Omaha World-Herald in 2016.
Kimble’s search for women who had worked in a Naval machine shop in the second world war, ruled out Doyle and eventually led to the discovery of Parker Fraley. In a 2016 article in the journal Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Dr. Kimble’s findings of “Rosie’s Secret Identity” were published. The report resulted in her being acknowledged at long last.
In 2016, when Kimble finally tracked Parker Fraley down, she was very happy to learn that someone was willing to acknowledge her as the real Rosie the Riveter. “The women of this country these days need some icons,” Parker Fraley said in a 2016 People magazine interview. “If they think I’m one, I’m happy.” She told People Magazine, “I didn’t want fame or fortune, but I did want my own identity.”
In an interview with the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, Naomi was asked what she felt about the public discovering that she was the real Rosie; her response was, “Victory! Victory! Victory!”
Sadly, less than two years after Parker Fraley received recognition for being the infamous Naval worker in the photograph, on January 20, 2018, she died at the age of 96.
This article is a tribute to her and to all the women who worked diligently to support the efforts of those who fought and served so bravely in World War II.