The 'Real' Rosie the Riveter in Iconic 'We Can Do It' Posters Dies at 96

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January 23, 2018Jan 23, 2018

On Tuesday morning, news emerged that Naomi Parker Fraley, the “real” Rosie the Riveter who was the inspiration behind iconic WWII posters, passed away. Fraley reportedly died in hospice care at the age of 96. 

According to CNN, Fraley was a factory worker during World War II at the Alameda Naval Station. Her daughter-in-law, Marnie Blankenship, said that while Fraley was working she had a press photographer approach her and ask to take a picture.

Until 2015, however, Fraley was not recognized as the inspiration for the Rosie the Riveter posted with the inspiring “We Can Do It!” message.

Originally, another woman, Geraldine Hoff Doyle, was known as the inspiration behind the infamous campaign. According to Seton Hall University Professor James Kimble, when the photograph was first released Doyle said that she recognized her likeness in it. Original reports clung to that origin.

Over 60 years after the photograph was taken, however, Fraley was attending a convention for women who worked during the war when she saw the photograph that was the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter. According to Blankenship, her mother-in-law immediately recognized the photograph as the same one that the photographer captured of her years before (pictured below).

Fraley told PEOPLE, “I couldn’t believe it because it was me in the photo, but there was somebody else’s name in the caption: Geraldine. I was amazed…I just wanted my own identity. I didn’t want fame or fortune, but I did want my own identity.”

In 2015, Professor Kimble made a discovery that allowed Fraley to be officially recognized- he found that the original photograph had a caption with the name “Naomi Parker.”

Kimble said, “She had been robbed of her part of history. It’s so hurtful to be misidentified like that. It’s like the train has left the station and you’re standing there and there’s nothing you can do because you’re 95 and no one listens to your story.”

Blankenship said that her mother-in-law simply wanted the name on current replicas to be corrected.

She said, “She didn’t think she did anything special. A lot of women did what she did. She just wanted her picture corrected.”

Sadly, Fraley has now passed away in hospice care. Luckily she was given recognition for the role that she played in history, and the iconic poster that she was the inspiration behind will live on long after her death. Please pray for her family because a loss, no matter what age, is difficult. In other breaking news, a tsunami warning and watches are in place for several U.S. states after a 7.9 earthquake.

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