Iconic Face of Rosie the Riveter Poster Dies

A Michigan factory worker used as the unwitting model for the wartime Rosie the Riveter poster whose inspirational “We Can Do It!” message became an icon of the feminist movement has died. Geraldine Doyle died Sunday, a spokesman for the Hospice House of Mid Michigan told AFP. She was 86.Doyle who worked as a factory worker didn’t realize she had a famous face until she was flipping through a magazine in 1982 and spotted a reproduction of the poster and said “Look! That’s me!” her daughter told AFP.

Doyle was just 17 when she took a job at a metal pressing plant near Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1942 at the height of World War II. She quit about two weeks later after learning that another woman had badly injured her hand doing the same job — Doyle was worried she’d lose the ability to play the cello, her daughter said.

She was there, however, when a United Press International photographer came to the factory while documenting the contribution of women to the war effort. A picture of Doyle was later used by J. Howard Miller, a graphic artist at Westinghouse, for the poster which was aimed at deterring strikes and absenteeism.

The poster was not widely seen until the 1980s when it was embraced by the feminist movement as a potent symbol of women’s empowerment.The iconic image now graces a US postage stamp and has been used to sell lunch boxes, aprons, mugs, t-shirts and figurines.

A memorial service is set for Saturday, January 8 in Lansing, Michigan.