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How the real “Rosie the Riveter” reclaimed her identity

ROSIE THE RIVETER
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Due to the Woozle effect, Naomi Parker nearly didn't discover her claim to fame.

In 2010, the country lamented the death of Geraldine Hoff Doyle and the loss of the inspiration behind the iconic “We Can Do It!” poster from World War II. But now the country is mourning the loss of Rosie the Riveter all over again, with the recent death of Naomi Parker, who in the last few years of her life was discovered to have been the true “Rosie.”

Doyle was no con artist. The Rosie on the poster looked so strikingly similar to Doyle’s own photos of herself from the 1940s, right down to the polka-dotted bandanna, that it was hard to believe it wasn’t her. And though the hypothesis was never proven, the story was repeated so many times that it became accepted as fact (this is known as the Woozle effect), even gaining Doyle official recognition from the Women’s History Hall of Fame in Michigan.

But James J. Kimble, writer and professor at Seton Hall University, wanted to know for sure. So he set off on a six-year investigation for the original photo that inspired J. Howard Miller’s iconic poster. Finally, he found one, and a scribbled caption from the photographer (whose name is unknown) solved the mystery: “Pretty Naomi Parker looks like she might catch her nose in the turret lathe she is operating, but she knows to keep her nose out of her business.”

When Kimble tracked her down, Naomi Parker (now Naomi Farley) was alive and excited to hear that her photo had inspired the poster. Thankfully, Naomi was able to reclaim her identity as the original Rosie before her recent passing, but the sorry lesson of accepting facts without proof is one that Kimble hopes all will learn from his investigation.

Read more of the story here.

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