Geraldine Hoff Doyle, AKA Rosie the Riveter, has died at 86.


Geraldine Hoff Doyle, Rosie the Riveter

Geraldine Hoff Doyle, the inspiration for “Rosie the Riveter,” died on Sunday at the age of 86 due to complications from arthritis, the Washington Post reports.

Rosie’s story began in the 1940s, when a photographer snapped Geraldine Hoff Doyle’s photograph in an Ann Arbor manufacturing plant during World War II, the 17-year-old had no clue she’d inspire many others to contribute to the nation’s war effort.

Ms. Doyle said it took over 40 years for her to find out that her picture from that photograph had been used on the illustrated “We Can Do It!” poster urging women to take on jobs typically held by the men fighting battles in Europe and the Pacific.

Ms. Doyle died Sunday in Lansing at age 86. A memorial service is set for Jan. 8.

“She was definitely one of the Rosies,” said Sandy Soifer, executive director of the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame, in making reference to the fictional “Rosie the Riveter.” Which was the name given to women employed in plants during WWII.

The picture of the headscarf-wearing woman with the flexed bicep underneath a rolled-up shirt sleeve helped prompt lots of daughters, sisters and mothers to trade in the tools of household chores for those of production and take jobs in plants across Michigan and the country.

“It’s our belief that she is the actual model for the illustration that’s most often used in the posters and on the products,” added Soifer.

Ms. Doyle told the Lansing State Journal in 2002 that she had no idea the illustrated face on the poster commissioned by the U.S. War Production Coordinating Committee was her own until 1984, when she saw a reproduction of it in a magazine.

The forgotten photograph was taken in 1942 at a metal pressing plant about 33 miles southwest of Detroit.

“There were other Rosies. She said she was the model for that poster,” said Gladys Beckwith, former director of the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame.


Geraldine Hoff Doyle, aka Rosie the Riveter

The poster was “symbolic of an active woman who was taking an active part in the war effort, and it was empowering for a woman to see that,” Beckwith said.

“Rosie the Riveter” was the title of a popular 1940s song. Like the woman in the “We Can Do It!” poster, a woman holding a rivet gun in a Norman Rockwell painting was called “Rosie the Riveter.”

Doyle quit after just one week at the factory where her picture was made famous. “She later married a dentist and raised a family in Lansing, Mich.

Mrs. Doyle was unaware of the poster’s existence until 1982, when, while thumbing through a magazine, she saw a photograph of it and recognized herself. Her daughter said that the face on the poster was her mother’s, but that the muscles were not.

“She didn’t have big, muscular arms,” [her daughter Stephanie] Gregg said. “She was 5-foot-10 and very slender. She was a glamour girl. The arched eyebrows, the beautiful lips, the shape of the face — that’s her.”

Doyle is survived by five children, 18 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.


Geraldine Hoff Dotle, Rosie The Riveter

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