The woman believed to have inspired artist J. Howard Miller’s iconic World War II “Rosie the Riveter” poster died on Saturday at the age of 96, her family confirmed to The New York Times.
Naomi Parker Fraley was 20 years old when she and her younger sister, Ada, went to work at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California, following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
They were tasked with drilling and patching airplane wings and riveting, The New York Times reported. A photographer touring the station snapped a photo of Fraley wearing a red-and-white polka-dot bandana as she worked a vertical turret lathe, and the image was published in newspapers around the country.
The photograph reportedly caught the attention of Miller, who portrayed a flexing, bandana-clad woman in his now-iconic poster.
For years, the woman in the photo was thought to be Geraldine Hoff Doyle, who worked as a metal presser in a Michigan plant during the war.
When Fraley attended a reunion at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in 2009, she saw a copy of the photo captioned with Doyle’s name.
“I couldn’t believe it, because it was me in the photo, but there was somebody else’s name in the caption,” she told People magazine in 2016. “I was amazed.”
Scholar James J. Kimble, an associate professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, had also been researching “Rosie’s” true identity and zeroed in on Fraley. He published his findings in a 2016 article in the journal Rhetoric and Public Affairs.
“There is no question that she is the ‘lathe woman’ in the photograph,” Kimble told The New York Times.
Fraley and her sister were among millions of American women who entered the workforce during World War II, filling gaps in the labor force left by men who had gone off to fight. These women fulfilled a range of instrumental tasks, including producing planes and munitions, serving on ration boards, volunteering for the American Red Cross and driving trucks.
A Senate resolution last year designated March 21, 2017 as National Rosie the Riveter Day to honor their efforts.
After her stint at the naval air station, Fraley went on to waitress at a restaurant in Palm Springs and later got married and started a family. Her Facebook page proudly displayed an image of the “Rosie” poster, Fraley smiling and flexing her arm beside it.
“The women of this country these days need some icons,” she told People magazine. “If they think I’m one, I’m happy about that.”