Having finally been recognised as the true inspiration behind the famous wartime image ‘Rosie the Riveter’, Naomi Parker Fraley has died aged 96.
It’s an image we’ve all seen before and one that has maintained cultural relevance over the years. It’s a touching depiction of the strength of women and has long been used as a feminist symbol around the world.
But the real story behind ‘Rosie the Riveter’ was only settled in 2016 after decades of being wrongfully credited to Geraldine Hoff Doyle.
The Michigan native had innocently believed she was the basis for the poster, designed in 1943 by Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller, after seeing the image used on the cover of Smithsonian in 1994.
But Professor James Kimble of New Jersey’s Seton University had his doubts, and after a six-year journey, he eventually uncovered what he deemed to be irrefutable evidence that Fraley was the actual spark behind the famous image.
In an article titled “Rosie’s Secret Identity”, which was published in the journal Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Kimble describes how he discovered the original image with a vintage-photo dealer.
The image came with a caption glued to the back, which Kimble considers the “final smoking gun” as to the women’s true identity.
The unknown photographer writes: “Pretty Naomi Parker looks like she might catch her nose in the turret lathe she is operating, but she knows to keep her nose out of her business.”
Fraley worked at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California after she was inspired to volunteer for the US war effort following the attacks on Pearl Harbour.
Although she had suspected she may have been the inspiration for the famous poster, it wasn’t until a coming together of female war workers in 2011 that she saw the original photograph and instantly recognised herself.
And while both the Michigan Senate and the Women’s History Hall of Fame had previously celebrated Doyle, Fraley explained to People in 2016 that she just wanted to have an important part of her life recognised.
“I just wanted my own identity. I didn’t want fame or fortune, but I did want my own identity.”