|This is not Rosie.|
|This is Rosie.|
Here's what happened this week. Naomi Parker Fraley died. If you don't know that name, then you stumbled across the right blog. 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, this person was deemed Rosie the Riveter. 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 at the grand age of 96. I am sure she was a fine lady but, and with no disrespect meant, she's not Rosie. We know this, because we have always known that the model for the real Rosie was a young lady named Mary Doyle Keefe. That's the lady who 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.
A mega-Mandela double-dose of wrongness
So not only was Ms. Fraley not the model for Rosie, but the picture that everyone thinks is Rosie is not Rosie at all. That "We Can Do It" image was a poster that Westinghouse factory used internally, in an effort to cut down on absenteeism in 1943. The poster was never intended to be about empowering women, just a motivational tool to get them to show up for work. 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!
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."
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 the Riveter 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. ∎
Further Reading (Saturday Evening Post):