December 30, 2010

Rosie the Riveter, AKA Geraldine Doyle...

... has died at the age of 86.
[T]he woman in the patriotic poster...

... was never named Rosie, nor was she a riveter. All along it was Mrs. Doyle, who after graduating from high school in Ann Arbor, Mich., took a job at a metal factory, her family said.

One day, a photographer representing United Press International came to her factory and captured Mrs. Doyle leaning over a piece of machinery and wearing a red and white polka-dot bandanna over her hair.

In early 1942, the Westinghouse Corp. commissioned artist J. Howard Miller to produce several morale-boosting posters to be displayed inside its buildings. The project was funded by the government as a way to motivate workers and perhaps recruit new ones for the war effort.

Smitten with the UPI photo, Miller reportedly was said to have decided to base one of his posters on the anonymous, slender metal worker - Mrs. Doyle.

For four decades, this fact escaped Mrs. Doyle, who shortly after the photo was taken left her job at the factory. She barely lasted two weeks.

A cellist, Mrs. Doyle was horrified to learn that a previous worker at the factory had badly injured her hands working at the machines. She found safer employment at a soda fountain and bookshop in Ann Arbor, where she wooed a young dental school student and later became his wife.
Oh, the irony! She couldn't do it. But she could inspire others to do it. And she could do other things, like play the cello and rear 6 children. "We" can do it, each in our own way. You work the machines, I'll help people find the right books.

Here's the Norman Rockwell version of Rosie, who's not nearly so glamorous and is clearly not based on Mrs. Doyle:
The 52-by-40-inch oil on canvas depicts "Rosie" on lunch break, her riveting gun on her lap as she uses a dog-eared copy of Mein Kampf as a foot stool.
Great symbolism, Norman. And I don't mean the book. I mean the manly power tool.
Rockwell's Rosie is posed as an homage to Michelangelo's frescoed depiction of the prophet Isaiah from the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Here's Michelangelo's Isaiah, who's more respectful of his book, which is about God, not his struggle against lies, stupidity and cowardice.


SGT Ted said...

What?! Rosie wasn't actually named "Rosie"?!?!?!? eleventy!

Next you'll be telling me that all those WW II GI's weren't really named "Joe".

NotYourTypicalNewYorker said...

WOW! That's some set of arms Rockwell gave Rosie in that poster, don't mess with her!

Fred4Pres said...

Rockwell's Rosie sure has some guns!

I have always liked Rockwell. Art Critics dismissed him as a mere illustrator, but his work will last over time.

E.M. Davis said...

In time, we'll recall the outrage surrounding Piss Christ but no one will remember what it looked like ... but people will still remember this for generations.

Jb said...

Rockwell didn't paint the poster -- did either of you bother to read the article?

E.M. Davis said...

Jb - there's 2 versions featured in the post. The first is not by Rockwell, but there is a link to the second one, which is Rockwell's version of the same 'character.'

Did you bother to read the post?

MrBuddwing said...

I recall seeing a documentary with contemporary footage of some "Rosies" being interviewed. The Q&A sounded suspiciously rehearsed - especially the part where the interviewer asked each of the women if she wanted to hold onto her factory job when the war was over and her husband came home, and to a woman, each obediently replied, Oh, no, I'll be perfectly happy to be a housewife again when this war ends.

Word verificaiton: nallaspa

William said...

The do-rag is a direct result of Veronica Lake's efforts to undermine the war effort. Veronica Lake wore her hair with the part falling over her forehead. This is a no-no around heavy machinery. Many women were maimed as a result of this subversive hair style. The poster and Rockwell painting were an attempt to popularize an unflattering hair do.

former law student said...

The "We Can Do It" poster was all but forgotten till the Women's Lib movement resurrected it as a feminist icon. Only intellectual laziness caused it to be tagged with the "Rosie the Riveter" accurately applied to Rockwell's character.

But I would disagree with the professor on one detail: Her two-week stint running the milling machine (?) showed that the WCDI person could do it, but chose not to, given more pleasant options.

While tying her hair up protects it from getting caught in the machinery, she needs to be wearing safety glasses to keep metal chips and hot oil out of her eyes, and she should be wearing gloves to protect her hands from the slabs of metal she must handle.

edutcher said...

Rockwell's Rosie is obviously a bigger girl than Mrs Doyle (a fine Irish name if ever there was one).

Illustrators always get the galloping snides from the Art Establishment, witness Frederic Remington. I agree Rockwell was a better artist than he's given credit for being; he portrayed humanity in a way few artists could and literally told stories with just one picture.

Well, good for you, Geraldine. You had a good life, it sounds like, and I hope it was a happy one. We couldn't have made it without you.

Clyde said...

"Her daughter, Stephanie Gregg, said the cause of death was complications from severe arthritis."

Arthritis? I've never heard of that as a cause of death before. It's always something, as Rosanne Rosannadanna would say. If cancer, heart disease or accidents don't get you, then arthritis is waiting in the wings.

alan markus said...

"We Can Do It!" - "Yes, We Can!" Ugh!!

Hoosier Daddy said...

That was a rather provactive pose of Ms. Doyle.

I will say that the women of the 1940's had a lot of style and flair and oozed sexiness. Then the 50s and 60s rolled along and they seemed to become chew-your-arm off unattractive.

Hoosier Daddy said...

What?! Rosie wasn't actually named "Rosie"?!?!?!? eleventy!

Next you'll be telling me that all those WW II GI's weren't really named "Joe".

Don't tell me you were shocked when that VC you captured wasn't really named Charlie?

Clyde said...

Also interesting to me was that it took forty years for her to learn that she was the inspiration for the poster. She must have seen it numerous times and never made the connection.

It reminds me of when I see a movie with famous stars in it and they don't recognize each other! They're obviously Meryl Streep and Steve Martin, for example, and yet they live in a world where Meryl Streep and Steve Martin are not famous celebrities. One wonders who is on the movie screens in that alternate world.

wv: mings. Mercilessly.

aronamos said...

Appropos of nothing, I used to work with the woman who wrote the Democrat-Gazette article. Small world.

wv: consin. The relative who keeps asking for money.

Oligonicella said...

"Oh, the irony! She couldn't do it."

Couldn't? I didn't read where she was let go for inability.

Wouldn't. She chose to not endanger her hands.

edutcher said...

Hoosier Daddy said...

That was a rather provactive pose of Ms. Doyle.

I will say that the women of the 1940's had a lot of style and flair and oozed sexiness. Then the 50s and 60s rolled along and they seemed to become chew-your-arm off unattractive.

The styles in the 40s were quite attractive and romantic. We were finally coming out of the Depression, so women wanted to feel pretty again, and, when the War started, you never knew if you'd ever see that special someone again, so each encounter had to be memorable.

The 50s were about respectability and providing a good home for all those Baby Boomers who were going to turn on their parents like snakes once the 60s came along.

ricpic said...

I'll bet Miss Doyle's factory foreman walked around all day with a smile on his face.

Ann Althouse said...

Propaganda posters can be quite wonderful, but there's nothing wrong with maintaining that they should be seen at a lower level than high art. I wouldn't scorn these high-art proponents as snobs.

You can love commercial or low art and still think it belongs in a different category from art that you want to label great.

For example, I love some great pop recordings from the 60s, but I don't need to insist that they be regarded as equal to Beethoven.

The high art/low art discussion is worth having, but let's have it in a more sophisticated way.

Note that I'm making a high/low distinction with respect to conversation.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I wouldn't scorn these high-art proponents as snobs.

Sorry but art is about as subjective as it gets. For me Rockwell was a great artist. On the other hand I don't see the 'art' in a canvas of multiple hues splattered hither and yon because some critic can see the artist's 'soul' or some crap.

Synova said...

I met Rosie at an airshow. And she was a riveter, too. She was a tiny gray haired lady who'd come to see the antique war plane, I don't remember which one but it was one of those with the windows for the gunners in the front, and she explained that she'd built those. It was one of the very last ones of its type that could fly from one airshow to another.

Daniel Fielding said...

Ann- at an air-show at the Willow Run Airport in Ypslanti Township, I met a elderly lady from either Ypsilanti or Ann Arbor, who everyone said was the "real" Rosie who was the inspiration for the Rosie the Riveter poster.
Now I know.

Youngblood said...

Rockwell's Rosie is great. The goggles and the way the rivet gun is arrayed on her lap make her look more like she's part of the war effort.

And that expression! It's not, "Grrrr! I can do it," it's, "I just did it. And in a couple of minutes, I'll do it again."

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