The iconic image of a pretty woman, flexing her arm muscle, sporting a red polka-dot bandana around her upswept hair lives on to this day. Originally a symbol for the hard-working women of World War II, it has been re-used numerous times, frequently on social media.
Over the years, a number of women have been identified as the model for the image. The most famous was Geraldine Hoff Doyle.
But now it is believed that she was not the actual model at all.
The woman believed to have “one of the most legitimate claims of all,” was Naomi Parker Fraley. Tragically, Fraley passed away January 20, 2018, at age 96 after being “unrecognized for more than 70 years” as the likely real “Rosie the Riveter.”
Fraley told PEOPLE in 2016 that it was hurtful to see someone else’s name attached to what she believed was her image, “I just wanted my own identity. I didn’t want fame or fortune, but I did want my own identity.”
After the news of her death hit, across social media men and women alike celebrated her life, sharing what an inspiration her image had been to them. Many also mourned the way the icon had been unknown for so long, feeling she deserved better.
Fraley wouldn’t get anywhere with her claim of being the model for the image until 2015, reported PEOPLE. It was then that she met Seton Hall University Professor Dr. James J. Kimble.
Kimble had spent six years trying to accurately identify the woman behind the iconic image. That quest is what “led him straight to her door.”
Kimble believed he finally found the right woman and his heart was broken for Fraley, “she had been robbed of her part of history. It’s so hurtful to be misidentified like that.”
He added, “It’s like the train has left the station and you’re standing there and there’s nothing you can do because you’re 95 and no one listens to your story.” Kimble vowed to help her and he followed through, publishing her story in 2016 in the Rhetoric and Public Affairs journal.
The Omaha World-Herald columnist Matthew Hansen spoke to Fraley by phone in 2016, with help from her sister, asking her how it felt [to finally be known as] “Rosie the Riveter.” Ninety-four years old at the time, Fraley’s enthusiastic reply could be heard by Hansen very clearly, despite her not being on the phone herself, “Victory! Victory! Victory!”
Doyle, the woman previously most widely known as “Rosie the Riveter” passed away in 2010, her obituaries noting she was “Rosie.” Fraley has achieved one more victory, as obituaries for her are not only noting her as the real “Rosie,” but media stories are abundant that also recognize her as such.
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