4 Things You Didn’t Know About the Real-Life Rosie the Riveter

Naomi Parker-Fraley, who appeared in a photograph that inspired the iconic poster, died Saturday at age 96.

Close your eyes and picture Rosie the Riveter: You see her red and white polka dot bandana, signature blue work shirt, and can-do flair. Now, close your eyes and picture the real Rosie the Riveter. That’s a bit harder. You might not know that a real woman, Naomi Parker-Fraley, inspired the renegade war worker. In fact, it was only a few years ago that the lifelong waitress found out herself. It took decades, supportive siblings, and an inquisitive college professor for the public to recognize her as the original muse. Parker-Fraley died Saturday at age 96 in Longview, Washington. In her honor, here are four things you didn't know about the woman who inspired millions.

1

Another woman was thought to be Rosie.

naomi-parker-fraley
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

It was known that this photo of a female war worker with a polka dot bandana inspired J. Howard Miller, the "We Can Do It!" poster's creator. But for decades, Geraldine Hoff Doyle, a factory worker in Michigan in the 1940s, was thought to be the original Rosie. Doyle had seen an uncaptioned print of the photo in the 1980s and believed it was herself. That all changed in 2009, when Parker-Fraley attended a women's war workers reunion. She saw the original photo and immediately recognized herself in it. An ACME photographer took the photo in 1942 while she was working at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California. The proof: she had the original newspaper clippings of the photo with captions that identified her as the woman. The real Rosie was finally found.

2

A professor helped Naomi gain recognition.

In 2010, James J. Kimble, a communications professor at Seaton Hall University in New Jersey, set out to find Rosie the Riveter's real identity. After five years of research, he finally came in contact with Parker-Fraley. He published Parker-Fraley's story in 2016 in Rhetoric & Public Affairs, an academic journal.

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3

Naomi was very close with her sisters.

Throughout her life, her sister Ada Wyn Parker-Loy, has been by her side. Both worked in the machine shop at the Naval Air Station during World War II. After the war, they both worked as waitresses. Both also became ordained ministers in 1977. They attended the female war reunion in Richmond, California together as well. Over the years, both sisters married, had children, and became widows. Eventually, they ended up living together until Parker-Fraley passed away on Saturday.

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4

Naomi was a talented songwriter.

Along with her sisters, Althea and Ada Wyn, Naomi was in a Christian music group called “The Three Sisters.” Naomi’s YouTube channel features two songs she wrote: Lonely Is The Night, sung by Naomi, and Daughter, sung by Althea.