American Naomi Parker Fraley, who inspired the iconic World War II-era “Rosie the Riveter” poster that later became an enduring feminist symbol, has died. She was 96 years old.
The wartime propaganda poster in punchy primary colors shows a young woman in blue coveralls and a red-and-white polka dot bandana, her sleeve rolled past her elbow to show off her bicep under the slogan “We Can Do It!”
The image promoting the work of women during the Second World War was briefly posted in US factories in 1943 to combat absenteeism and discourage calls to strike.
It was later reintroduced from US archives in the early 1980s, and soon became emblematic of the role of women who had taken on factory roles to replace men during the war.
It has since been copied, imitated and parodied countless times, and regularly appears at feminist demonstrations.
Last year The New Yorker published a reimagined image of the poster that showed a woman of color in the same pose as the original, the bandana replaced with a pink “pussy hat” worn during the massive Women’s Marches protesting the inauguration of Donald Trump.
Fraley, whose daughter-in-law Marnie Blankenship confirmed her January 20 death to the New York Times on Monday, went unrecognized for decades as the model for the poster.
For many years, another worker, Geraldine Hoff Doyle, was wrongly identified as the woman depicted in the poster.
Scholar James Kimble of New Jersey’s Seton Hall University in 2016 published lengthy research debunking that assertion, and backing up Fraley’s claim to have been the image’s true inspiration.
He discovered a 1942 black-and-white photograph showing a 20-year-old Fraley sporting the telltale polka-dot bandana, which held her hair back as she operated a machine in the Alameda, California military equipment factory where she worked.
“The women of this country these days need some icons,” Fraley told People magazine in 2016. “If they think I’m one, I´m happy.”