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Re-discovering 'Rosie'

The research process can be overwhelming. So many questions remain mysteries and when the digging can seem daunting, we accept what's stated without questioning. Time passes and myth becomes fact. Then someone comes along and sees the flaw in that 'fact.' It may take years to unravel, but oh, how sweet the discovery...

A wartime industrial poster displayed in Westinghouse Electric plants in 1943, became an iconic feminist symbol and rallying image for generations of women. Created by J. Howard Miller, an illustrator from Pittsburg, Miller was inspired by a 1942 photograph of a young woman operating a lathe in a Navy machine shop.

The photo was published widely, and is believed to have been the photograph that inspired Miller, yet at the time, there was no caption identifying her, which is usually the case with women in historic images. Another women thought the image resembled her and for decades, declared herself as the 'original Rosie', but thanks to an intrepid professor, the true inspiration for this 'muscle-flexing-every-woman,' was discovered just a couple of years ago!

After nearly six years of scouring collections and archives to find a copy of the photo for any possible notation, Dr. James Kimble finally located a copy with the photographer's original caption: "Pretty Naomi Parker looks like she might catch her nose on the turret lathe she is operating. March 24, 1942, Alameda."

Naomi Parker Fraley and her sister worked at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, CA, where they were not only riveters and drillers, but also worked patching airplane wings to keep Naval pilots flying. "The women of this country these days need some icons," declared Naomi Fraley, in 2016. "If they think I'm one, I'm happy." And, when asked how it felt to at last be recognized as Rosie the Riveter, Fraley declared: "Victory! Victory! Victory!"

Naomi Parker Fraley—the original 'Rosie'—passed January 20th, at the age of 96. How sweet, that she experienced the re-discovery of her 'Rosie' contributions. Grateful thanks to that persistent professor, and — Godspeed, dear Naomi!

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