The 17-year-old Michigan factory worker who was the inspiration for the iconic World War II Rosie the Riveter, “We Can Do It” poster, died Dec. 26 in Lansing, Mich. Geraldine Doyle was 86.
According to a Washington Post obituary, Doyle was on the job in a metal factory just a few weeks after graduating from high school in 1942 when a United Press International (UPI) photographer shot a picture of her leaning over a piece of machinery and wearing a red and white polka-dot bandanna over her hair.
Westinghouse Corp. commissioned artist J. Howard Miller to produce several morale-boosting posters for display 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—Doyle.
The poster and the name “Rosie the Riveter” came to symbolize the millions of women who entered the World War II workforce and who were especially instrumental in the war industries—shipyards, munitions plants and airplane factories—that had been strictly male dominated. With millions of men in the armed services, women took over these vital jobs.
For more on Rosie and women on the World War II home front assembly lines, visit the Rosie the Riveter Trust.