Iconic face of Rosie the Riveter poster dies
By Mira Oberman (AFP)
CHICAGO — A Michigan factory worker used as the unwitting model for the wartime Rosie the Riveter poster whose inspirational "We Can Do It!" message became an icon of the feminist movement has died.
Geraldine Doyle died Sunday, a spokesman for the Hospice House of Mid Michigan told AFP. She was 86.
Doyle didn't realize she had a famous face until she was flipping through a magazine in 1982 and spotted a reproduction of the poster and said "Look! That's me!" her daughter told AFP.
But while Doyle recognized her smile under the red and white polka dot bandana, the strong arm held up in a fist wasn't hers.
"That was the artists pumping up the muscles," daughter Stephanie Gregg said in a telephone interview.
"She was 5-10, very slender. She always liked to be glamorous."
Doyle was just 17 when she took a job at a metal pressing plant near Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1942 at the height of World War II.
She quit about two weeks later after learning that another woman had badly injured her hand doing the same job -- Doyle was worried she'd lose the ability to play the cello, her daughter said.
She was there, however, when a United Press International photographer came to the factory while documenting the contribution of women to the war effort.
A picture of Doyle was later used by J. Howard Miller, a graphic artist at Westinghouse, for the poster which was aimed at deterring strikes and absenteeism.
The poster was not widely seen until the 1980s when it was embraced by the feminist movement as a potent symbol of women's empowerment.
The iconic image now graces a US postage stamp and has been used to sell lunch boxes, aprons, mugs, t-shirts and figurines.
The term "Rosie the Riveter" stems from a 1942 song honoring the women who took over critical factory jobs when American men went off to war.
Another Michigan woman, Rose Will Monroe, was the best-known "Rosie" after being featured in a wartime promotional film about female factory workers.
While Doyle didn't spend much time in a factory, she was still a strong woman and inspiration to many, Gregg said.
"She really did live the 'We Can Do It!' idea," Gregg said. "She had a real go get 'em attitude."
But she was quick to correct people who thought she was the original Rosie the Riveter, Gregg said.
"She would say that she was the 'We Can Do It!" girl," Gregg said. "She never wanted to take anything away from all the Rosie the Riveters who were doing the riveting."
A memorial service is set for Saturday, January 8 in Lansing, Michigan.
I was sad to see the news. Interesting to me that she didn't even know about her role until she happened across an image of that poster in the 80's and said hey that's me!