Goodbye To The Real-Life Rosie the Riveter

By Christopher Connell

The woman believed to be the real “Rosie the Riveter” has died at the age of 96. She was Naomi Parker Fraley and inspired an iconic war poster of a young factory worker clad in a work shirt and bandana and flexing her bicep.

The poster salutes patriotic American women for their contributions during World War II, when women filled factory jobs vacated by men who were fighting overseas. The poster has long served as a reminder of women’s contributions to the U.S. economy during a period that led to better job opportunities for them generally.

Parker Fraley was photographed in 1942 turning a lathe in a U.S. Navy machine shop in California. An artist who had spotted the photo in a newspaper turned it into the vivid poster a year later, adding the words “WE CAN DO IT!” Parker Fraley’s identity remained a mystery for years, until a scholarly sleuth tracked down the original photo. She basked in the late-life attention and was proud to have inspired new generations of women at work.

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