Geraldine Doyle, the iconic face of Rosie the Riveter, died on Sunday at the age of 86. The famous poster with the wartime hero Rosie the Riveter became the inspiration for the feminist movement, with the slogan “we can do it” emblazoned in bold letters. However, Doyle wasn’t even aware of her fame until she spotted a reproduction of the poster in a magazine by accident in 1982.
Doyle, interestingly, wasn’t a muscled woman, so to speak, like the character pictured in the poster. Rather she was rather tall and thin, but did have the beautiful face, red lips, arched eyebrows, and red polka-dot bandana that Rosie wears on the poster. Doyle was just 17-years-old when she took the metal pressing job at a plant near Ann Arbor, MI 1942. However, she quit two weeks later after learning that another young woman had severely injured her hand while on the job. Doyle loved to play the cello, and didn’t want to put her playing hands at risk. Nevertheless, she was there when a photographer came to take pictures at the factory while documenting the contribution of women to the war effort.
The rest is history: a picture of Doyle was used by J. Howard Miller, a graphic artist for Westinghouse, where the poster was originally developed to prevent absenteeism and union strikes in the factories. But when the poster became popular in the 1980s, it wasn’t because of its original intent. Instead, the feminist movement adopted the poster as a potent symbol of women’s empowerment. Since then, the iconic image has been featured on lunchboxes, t-shirts, and other items.