‘Rosie the Riveter': Identity Revealed as Naomi Parker Fraley

Rosie the Riveter, the feminist symbol of the late 20th century, was modeled after war worker Naomi Parker Fraley, who died in January 2018.

The New York Times published an obituary for Fraley, who died at the age of 96, in Longview, Washington. 

“I didn’t want fame or fortune. But I did want my own identity.”  

Before Fraley came to be identified as the real Rosie the Riveter, thanks to the six-year scholarly research by Dr. James J. Kimble, the media has credited another woman as the inspiration behind the famous poster.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle, from Michigan, had claimed – albeit in good faith – that she was Rosie and the media accepted it without much investigation.

When Doyle died in 2010, obituaries honored her as the woman behind the influential image.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY

A year after Doyle’s death, Fraley came across a photo of a woman at the lathe during a reunion of female war workers at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.

The woman was identified in the caption as Geraldine Doyle.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Fraley said in a 2016 interview. “I knew it was actually me in the photo.”  

She wrote to the National Park Service, which responded by asking for her help in determining “the true identity of the woman in the photograph.”

THE ORIGINAL PHOTO

Dr. Kimble went on a six-year investigation to identify the woman at the lathe. He stumbled upon a copy of the photo from a vintage-photo dealer, and it had the photographer’s original caption.

Dated March 24, 1942, the photo bore the caption: “Pretty Naomi Parker looks like she might catch her nose in the turret lathe she is operating.”

In 2016, Fraley’s connection to Rosie became public. She said in an interview, “I didn’t want fame or fortune. But I did want my own identity.”  

Fraley was survived by her son on, Joseph Blankenship; four stepsons, Ernest, Daniel, John, and Michael Fraley; two stepdaughters, Patricia Hood and Ann Fraley; two sisters, Mrs. Loy and Althea Hill; three grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and many step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren. 

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