Rosie the Riveter, a celebrated icon of American feminism was a woman before she became a poster. Naomi Parker Fraley was that woman, who had worked in a Navy machine shop during World War II. Rosie the Riveter was a symbol of scores of women who started doing jobs that men did in factories because America had sent them to war.
Ms. Fraley died on Saturday, at 96, in Longview, Wash.
The poster with a young woman wearing a polka dotted bandana flexing her muscles and saying ‘we can do it’ was not intended for public viewing when it was made. It was just something the factory tried to make their employees work better. But later, when the poster was rediscovered, it quickly became a feminist symbol. Many versions of Rosie the Riveter have since been produced.
There were many claims that were made on the picture when it became popular and the media had a hard time finding out the real Rosie the Riveter.
The search ended in Naomi Fern Parker, who was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Aug. 26, 1921. Naomi and her sister Ada both worked at the Naval Air Station in Alameda. An Acme photographer had clicked Naomi working there, with her to-be-iconic-later polka dotted bandana. It is believed that artist J. Howard Miller, who made the ‘we can do it’ poster drew inspiration from this photograph of Naomi.
Naomi originally did not associate the poster with herself, but when the photograph had appeared in a newspaper, she had clipped and kept it.
Even though the Rosie the Riveter photo was originally used to encourage women to work in factories to fill the void of men who had all become conscripts, it was later reclaimed and reinterpreted by a lot of feminists and feminist movements.
After the war, Naomi worked as a waiter. She is survived by a large family of children, step children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, step grandchildren and step great grandchildren.