By Debbie Gregory.
It’s one of the most iconic images of the American female empowerment and spirit: in bold graphics and bright colors by Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller, the image depicts a young woman in a work shirt and polka-dot bandanna, arm flexed, declaring “We Can Do It!”
Naomi Parker Fraley, the woman credited with inspiring the “Rosie the Riveter” poster of World War II, has died at the age of 96.
Fraley worked at the former Alameda Naval Air Station shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The 20-year-old Naomi and her 18-year-old sister, Ada, were assigned to the machine shop, where their duties included drilling, patching airplane wings and, yes, riveting.
The aim of the original photograph was to highlight the strict dress code for women doing industrial jobs to boost the war effort, consisting of slacks and turbans.
The photo caption stated that the clothing policy “hasn’t made Miss Naomi Parker any less attractive.” Newspapers across the country also published it.
Years later, Mrs. Fraley encountered the Miller poster. “I did think it looked like me,” she said, although the accompanying information identified another woman as the individual in the photo.
“But I knew it was actually me in the photo.”
James J. Kimble, an associate professor of communication and the arts at Seton Hall University spent six years researching the image and backed Fraley’s claim. For Dr. Kimble, the quest for Rosie, which began in earnest in 2010, “became an obsession.”
He reported his findings in “Rosie’s Secret Identity,” a 2016 article in the journal Rhetoric & Public Affairs.
Fraley is survived by her son, Joseph Blankenship; stepsons Ernest, Daniel, John and Michael Fraley; stepdaughters Patricia Hood and Ann Fraley; and sisters Ada Wyn Parker Loy and Althea Hill.