Geraldine Doyle, aka Rosie the Riveter, who as a 17-year-old factory worker became the inspiration for a popular World War II recruitment poster that evoked female power and independence under the slogan "We Can Do It!," died Dec. 26 at a hospice in Lansing, Mich.
The woman in the patriotic poster was never named Rosie, nor was she a riveter. All along it was Mrs. Doyle, who after graduating from high school in Ann Arbor, Mich., took a job at a metal factory around 1941, her family said.
One day, a photographer representing United Press International came to her factory and captured Mrs. Doyle leaning over a piece of machinery and wearing a red and white polka-dot bandanna over her hair.
In early 1942, the Westinghouse Corp. commissioned artist J. Howard Miller to produce several morale-boosting posters to be displayed inside its buildings. The project was funded by the government as a way to motivate workers and perhaps recruit new ones for the war effort.
A cellist, Mrs. Doyle was horrified to learn that a previous worker at the factory had badly injured her hands working at the machines. She found safer employment at a soda fountain and bookshop in Ann Arbor, where she wooed a young dental school student and later became his wife.
She never knew she was "Rosie the Riveter" until 1984 when Mrs. Doyle and her family came across an article in Modern Maturity magazine, a former AARP publication, that connected her UPI photo with Miller's wartime poster.