Rosie the Riveter, and the perpetuated myth about who she was and what she stands for, is another example of "collective misconception," the phenomena known as the Mandela Effect. One group of people repeat a thing enough times, and then enough large groups simply accept it as true and keep repeating it, that it then "becomes true." It is kind of amazing, and also terrifying.
First of All, It's Not Her
Naomi Parker Fraley died this week. In 2015, Naomi Parker Fraley's daughter-in-law saw a picture of Ms. Fraley from when she was a factory worker, and noticed a resemblance to the woman in the iconic "We Can Do It!" poster. Suddenly Ms. Fraley "became" the "real Rosie," just because she was pictured in a chambray shirt and a head scarf, working on a factory line. By that logic, my grandma was also Rosie. So was yours if she worked in a factory during WW2.
Condolences about Naomi Parker Fraley passing today at the grand age of 96. I am sure she was a fine lady but, and with no disrespect meant, it's not her. We already know that the model for the real Rosie was a young lady named Mary Doyle Keefe. Well-known to have sat for the famous Rosie painting, Mary Doyle Keefe was a nice lady who passed at the age of 92...coincidentally, and I'm being kind here...in 2015. It's almost like the real Rosie died and this Fraley family jumped in to abscond with her legacy or something.
...aaaaand It's Not HER, Either
Yes, today every news organization carrying the story about the passing of Ms. Fraley is showing the iconic image and saying it is "Rosie", but no, that "We Can Do It!" image does not depict Rosie the Riveter.
So it's a double-Mandela mega-dose of wrongness. Not only was Fraley not the model for Rosie, but the woman everyone thinks is Rosie is not Rosie.
"We Can Do It" was a poster that Westinghouse used in 1943 at the factory, internally, in an effort to cut down on absenteeism. There was a lot of that kind of thing in the forties. Ask your grandma. "We Can Do It" was never intended to be about empowering women, and it sure as heck ain't our Rosie.
An artist named Howard Miller drew the "We Can Do It!" poster. Miller's factory lady doesn't have a name, nor red hair. Westinghouse doesn't even use rivets. That chick ain't no kinda Rosie.
From the Smithsonian:
"Artist J. Howard Miller produced this work-incentive poster for the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company. Though displayed only briefly in Westinghouse factories, the poster in later year [sic] has become one of the most famous icons of World War II.
As women were encouraged to take wartime jobs in defense industries, they became a celebrated symbol of female patriotism. But when the war ended, many industries forced women to relinquish their skilled jobs to returning veterans."
Another Howard Miller poster.
Researcher Kelly Shanahan adds:
"This poster was commissioned by the Westinghouse electric and manufacturing company as a part of the United States effort to increase production and dedication within the warehouses. This poster was actually only posted for two weeks in February in 1943 and was never titled as Rosie the Riveter that she has become known as today. The poster was rediscovered in the 80's [sic] and misinterpreted as a symbol for the feminist movement and involvement in WW2. Miller never intended for "Rosie " to last longer than her two week poster debut, however she has somehow become ingratiated into society as a symbol for those women working in WW2."
Norman Rockwell painted the real Rosie
She was one of the great iconic Rockwell covers for Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell even put her name on her lunchbox, gave her greasy overalls far too big (the rolled up cuffs just kill me), and he boldly painted a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf under her foot. Rockwell gave his Rosie unruly red hair, cheeks pinked from hard work, well-muscled forearms and a big ol' rivet gun. It's kind of a big deal.
Whole Lotta Rosie
So well received was Rockwell's May 1943 cover that he was pressed to paint more "rosies" doing more blue collar jobs. There were more than thirty Rosie covers in all, and that is how "Rosie to the Rescue" became a hopeful and patriotic call to women everywhere, and remains an iconic inspiring figure to this day – if you know where to find her.
The real Rosie will always be seated smartly upon her post, on her Post, covered in grease, goggles pushed up so she can eat her lunch before going back to work. You go, real Rosie. We see you, girl. ∎
|Rosie the Riveter (actual)|
Norman Rockwell, 1943
Model: Mary Doyle Keefe
Further Reading (Saturday Evening Post):