Tuesday, January 23, 2018

You Don't Know Rosie

It's Not Her

In 2015 when Naomi Parker Fraley's daughter-in-law saw a picture of Ms. Fraley from when she was a factory worker, she saw a resemblance to the woman in the iconic "We Can Do It!" poster. 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 Ms. Fraley was not the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter.

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.

With no disrespect meant for Naomi Parker Fraley: it's not her. The model for the real Rosie was a young lady named Mary Doyle Keefe, who passed in 2015 at the age of 92.

It's Not HER, Either

Even if Ms. Fraley were the inspiration for it, that "We Can Do It!" poster is not Rosie the Riveter at all. Every news organization carrying the story about the passing of Ms. Fraley is showing the iconic image, but "We Can Do It!" was a poster that Westinghouse used in 1943. This was a poster used at the factory internally, in an effort to cut down on absenteeism. It was never intended to be about empowering women, and it sure as heck ain't Rosie.

Norman Rockwell painted the real Rosie the Riveter. She was one of the great iconic Rockwell covers for Saturday Evening Post. He even put her name on her lunchbox, gave her overalls that were a size 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 cheeks pinked from hard work, red hair, well-muscled forearms and a big ol' rivet gun.

Howard Miller drew the "We Can Do It!" poster. She doesn't have a name, or red hair. Westinghouse doesn't even use rivets.
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." 
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 [sicand 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."

Whole Lotta Rosie

So well received was Rockwell's May 1943 cover that he painted more "rosies" for more covers, and that is how "Rosie to the Rescue" became a hopeful and patriotic carillon 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 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
Norman Rockwell, 1943

Model: Mary Doyle Keefe

Further Reading (Saturday Evening Post):

Can You Identify the 31 Jobs in Rockwell’s “Rosie to the Rescue”?

Rosie The Riveter


  1. How am I expected to go on after this. WHAT ELSE DON'T I KNOW.

  2. whaaaaaaaaaaaat. oh my god?

  3. But can they both be Rosie? I guess not if the Westinghouse "worker" poster has no name. This is so weird...