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Iconic Face for "Rosie the Riveter" Dies

The woman whose face graced one of the most iconic images of our times has died -- "Rosie the Riveter."

Geraldine Doyle was just 17 years old when she took a job at a metal-pressing plant in Michigan in 1942. She lasted only two weeks, quitting after another woman severely injured her hand doing the same job she did. Doyle was afraid she would meet the same fate, and would be unable to play the cello anymore.

But in that short time a UPI photographer documenting women in the workplace -- then considered a phenomenon brought on by the shortage of men during World War II -- snapped her photo.

A graphic artist at Westinghouse got a hold of it, and used her face for the poster that was designed to deter strikes and absenteeism at the company's factories.

And that was it until the 1980s, when the feminist movement co-opted the poster and its inspirational "We Can Do It!" message for its cause.

Doyle didn't even know of the existence of the poster until she saw it in a magazine in 1982. She said, "Look! That's me!" her daughter Stephanie Gregg told the news agency AFP.

Gregg said her mother recognized the face as her own, but not the muscular arm.

"That was the artists pumping up the muscles," said Gregg. "She was 5-10, very slender. She always liked to be glamorous."

Doyle was not the only "Rosie the Riveter," and not even the most famous one. That distinction belonged to Rose Will Monroe, who gained fame after being featured in a wartime promotional film about female factory workers. Gregg said Doyle was always quick to point that out.

"She would say that she was the 'We Can Do It!' girl," Gregg said. "She never wanted to take anything away from all the Rosie the Riveters who were doing the riveting."

Doyle died Sunday at a nursing home in Michigan. She was 86.


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