Five years ago, we told you the story of how Geraldine Doyle was identified as the inspiration for the Rosie the Riveter poster. Doyle died in 2010 at age 86. Now evidence has come to light that she wasn’t the model for Rosie at all! Dr. James Kimble of Seton Hall University followed the story of how Doyle was identified as Rosie and was bothered by how little fact-checking went into it. So he decided to investigate himself. He began working on tracing the provenance of the photograph that Westinghouse used when their graphics department designed the poster. None of the available copies of the photo had any information on them, and the identification was made by Doyle herself.
So he called all the various wire services and stock photo collections that might now own the photo. He called naval bases and photo experts. He did endless Google searches. He leafed through endless issues of WWII-era magazines, looking for the photo in question in the hope it might be captioned with a date or a place. This took months, and got him pretty much nowhere — though a particular naval base in California kept popping up, a location that piqued Kimble’s interest because Doyle had worked at a factory in Michigan.
And then, in a feat of both persistence and luck, yet another Google search led Kimble to a Memphis company that sells old newspaper photos. The company just happened to be selling the photo he was looking for, the photo of the woman leaning over the lathe. He bought it, and when it arrived in the mail he realized it had the caption information he had been searching for on the back.
The photo was taken March 24, 1942, in Alameda, California. That pretty much eliminated Doyle as the photo’s subject, because she worked in a plant in Michigan and hadn’t even started there by that date.
Besides, the woman in the photo had a name.
Not only that, but Noami Parker Fraley is still around at age 94 and living in California. Read the story of how Kimble found the real Rosie at the Omaha World-Herald. -Thanks, Dr. Kimble!