Friday, December 31, 2010

Rosie the Riveter Poster Girl Dies

The object of a drawing my daughter, Marina, did a couple of years ago, 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 December 26th.

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, Michigan took a job at a metal factory. 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 Corporation 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 some 40 years Mrs. Doyle did not know the photo had become a famous poster.  Shortly after the photo was taken she left her job at the factory and went to work at a soda fountain and bookshop in Ann Arbor. It wasn't until 1984 that Mrs. Doyle came across an article in a magazine that connected her UPI photo with Miller's wartime poster.

For story about a 'local' Rosie the Riveter girl, read Marina's Rosie

Below is J. Howard Miller's poster and then the charcoal drawing by Marina (2008), then age 15.


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