By Lauren Linhard – email@example.com
Rosie the Riveter is one of the most prominent images representing the women’s right’s movement throughout history. Originally designed as a poster to encourage women to join the workforce during World War II, Rosie has continued to inspire the “We Can Do It” attitude for generations as women fight for equality.
But who is Rosie? And where exactly did that iconic polka dot bandanna come from?
Her name is Naomi Parker Fraley, she lives in California with her sister and her identity was only discovered two years ago.
Parker-Fraley, now 95 years old, was one of the first women on the line at Alameda Naval Air Station in 1942, working in assembly and repair to rivet planes back together.
Her image originally appeared in newspapers nationwide after a photographer captured her operating the lathe and sporting the famous bandanna. The photo accompanied an article about how women should dress for workplace safety.
“The red, polkadot bandanna we got at the 5 and Dime,” said Parker-Fraley, who bought the hair accessory with her sister. “It had to be large because otherwise it wouldn’t go around your hair, and they didn’t want any of your hair to show if you were working around machines.”
A year later, artist J. Howard Miller based his “Rosie the Riveter” poster on the widely-spread media image of Parker-Fraley. It wasn’t until 2009, more than 60 years later, that she learned the poster was based on her photo, but (plot twist!) someone else had incorrectly claimed credit as the woman in the photo.
“I couldn’t believe it because it was me in the photo, but there was somebody else’s name in the caption: Geraldine,” said Parker-Fraley. “I was amazed. I didn’t want fame or fortune, but I did want my own identity.”
Even after sending the proper organizations the original newspaper clipping, which she had stored in her hope chest, it was too late to correct more than 20 years of misunderstanding. At least until James Kimble showed up on the scene.
Kimble, a professor of communications at Seton Hall University, had dedicated six years of his career to legitimizing Rosie’s identity before the search led him to Parker-Fraley’s door.
He revealed the real woman behind the WWII poster in “Rosie’s Secret Identity, or, How to debunk a woozle by walking backward through the forest of visual rhetoric,” Kimble’s resulting 2016 publication which documented his investigation tracing the roots of Rosie the Riveter and the false claim on her identity.
Even before being recognized as Rosie the Riveter, Parker-Fraley prided herself as a role model for other women. Now, however, she is thrilled to use the new-found fame further her message of empowerment and positivity.
“You stand at crossroads of life and look upon the future. You have a long life ahead and it’s your right to choose the road that you wish to walk on,” Parker-Fraley said. “In this age you have been given many great opportunities before you. Go forth, learn as much as you can. You are a treasure, and the world waits for you.”