The woman believed to have been the real inspiration for the iconic female World War II factory worker Rosie the Riveter has died. She was 96.
Naomi Parker Fraley died Saturday in Longview, Wash. after a battle with cancer, KATU reported.
Following an arduous search by a Seton Hall University professor, Fraley was identified in 2016 as the “real” inspiration of the widely seen poster of a female factory worker flexing with the caption, “We can do it!”
Multiple women had been identified over the years as possible models for Rosie, however James J. Kimble honed in on Fraley after he ruled out the best known symbol for the iconic poster, Geraldine Hoff Doyle.
He published his findings in the journal Rhetoric & Public Affairs.
“The women of this country these days need some icons,” Fraley told People magazine after her identity was revealed. “If they think I’m one, I’m happy.”
Fraley was born in Tulsa, Okla. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, she and her younger sister Aida Wyn went to work at the Naval Air Station in Alameda. There were among the first women to do war work there.
“A photographer happened to be going through and taking pictures and he glommed on to her,” her daughter-in-law Marnie Blankenship told KATU.
According to the New York Times, the photo showed a young woman sporting a polka-dot bandana at an industrial lathe. The photo was published widely in the spring and summer of 1942, though it rarely had a caption identifying the woman or the factory.
It is believed that artist J. Howard Miller used this woman as his inspiration for the iconic poster that was hung at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation plants in 1943.
The poster was never supposed to see the light of day, but a copy of it came to light in the early 1980s. It quickly became a symbol for feminism and it was named Rosie the Riveter.
After the war, Farley went to work as a waitress at the Doll House restaurant in Palm Springs, Calif. She married and had a family.
According the Times, Kimble was able to identify Fraley after he found a copy of the photo from a vintage-photo dealer. It carried the photographer’s original caption with the date – March 24, 1942 – and the location, Alameda.
“Pretty Naomi Parker looks like she might catch her nose in the turret lathe she is operating,” the caption read.
The two met in 2015 and she produced her copy of the photo from a newspaper clipping that she had saved.
“I'm thankful that she got the notoriety that she deserves. The funny thing is she was a humble person and she didn't care,” her son Joe Blankenship told KATU. “Whatever the world threw at her, she’d just bounced back. She did it and she always did it on her own. She was an amazing person.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called Fraley a "unique and special Washingtonian."
"Rosie the Riveter is an enduring symbol for generations of women and men," he tweeted. "Trudi and I are holding her family and friends in our hearts."