Woman Who Inspired “Rosie The Riveter” Dies At 86

The woman who became the inspiration for one of the most well-known propaganda posters of the World War Two era has died:

Geraldine Doyle, 86, who as a 17-year-old factory worker became the inspiration for a popular World War II recruitment poster that evoked female power and independence under the slogan “We Can Do It!,” died Dec. 26 at a hospice in Lansing, Mich.

Her daughter, Stephanie Gregg, said the cause of death was complications from severe arthritis.

For millions of Americans throughout the decades since World War II, the stunning brunette in the red and white polka-dot bandanna was Rosie the Riveter.

Rosie’s rolled-up sleeves and flexed right arm came to represent the newfound strength of the 18 million women who worked during the war and later made her a figure of the feminist movement.

But the woman in the patriotic poster was never named Rosie, nor was she a riveter. All along it was Mrs. Doyle, who after graduating from high school in Ann Arbor, Mich., took a job at a metal factory, her family said.

One day, a photographer representing United Press International came to her factory and captured Mrs. Doyle leaning over a piece of machinery and wearing a red and white polka-dot bandanna over her hair.

In early 1942, the Westinghouse Corp. commissioned artist J. Howard Miller to produce several morale-boosting posters to be displayed inside its buildings. The project was funded by the government as a way to motivate workers and perhaps recruit new ones for the war effort.

Smitten with the UPI photo, Miller reportedly was said to have decided to base one of his posters on the anonymous, slender metal worker – Mrs. Doyle.

For four decades, this fact escaped Mrs. Doyle, who shortly after the photo was taken left her job at the factory. She barely lasted two weeks.

Here’s the original photo that inspired the famous poster:

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. JKB says:

    Ironic she only lasted two weeks in the job and left due to fears of a hand injury. Although she did contribute once she found her niche.