when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Rosie the Riveter

Posted on: January 2, 2011

Remember Rosie the Riveter, with the red kerchief around her head and the strong arm, the ICON of women in the industrial labor force in World War II?  The one who said:  “We can do it!”  In fact, she characterized herself as the “We can do it” girl.

Her name was Geraldine Doyle, and she died this week.

Doyle took a job at a metal processing plant in Ann Arbor in 1942, but she only worked about 2 weeks. A co-worker injured her hand, and that frightened Doyle, a cello player.

During her two weeks on the job, a UPI photographer came to the plant and the picture he took of Doyle was used by J. Howard Miller, a graphic artist at Westinghouse, who developed posters for his employer aimed at dissuading women from strikes and absenteeism.

Doyle had no idea that her face was iconic until she was flipping through a magazine in 1982, after the feminist movement adopted the image to demonstrate women’s empowerment.  She recognized her face immediately; the arm, she said, was not hers.  Her arm was not that muscular.

Rosie the Riveter is on t-shirts, mugs, and all sorts of merchandising.  I bought a bright red t-shirt with Rosie’s pic on it when visiting the National Museum of the Pacific (often referred to as the Nimitz Museum, and located in Admiral Nimitz’s family home in Fredricksburg, Texas) last spring.

Rosie is an icon that will undoubtedly live much longer than Mrs. Doyle, who died at 86.

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