Rosie the Riveter’s Final March

This iconic poster by J. Howard Miller featuring “Rosie the Riveter” served to raise worker morale during WWII. Naomi Parker, the woman who inspired the image, passed away at age 96 on Jan 20, 2018.

Sarah Fairchild/Copy Editor

On Jan. 20, 2018, approximately 1.1 million Women’s March protesters flooded the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Washington, and Chicago to rally against the policies of the current presidential administration. And while the government shutdown kept the President from traveling to his Mar-A-Lago estate in Palm Beach, several protesters gathered north of the mansion despite his absence.

Riding on the undercurrent of revelations about powerful men abusing women (the #MeToo movement), activists are now demanding deeper social and political reform. The Women’s March movement largely protested legislation regarding women’s rights, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, and immigration reform. Several speakers urged the activists to carry their enthusiasm over to the polls for the upcoming midterm election, and encouraged for more women to run for office.

People touted signs that were both serious and sarcastic in nature, twisting quotes from the Trump administration into rallying cries that proclaimed their woes. One of the most powerful sets of posters included artistically rendered images of African American, Hispanic, and Muslim women in the colors of the American flag with the simple caption “We the people” underneath the image.

Ironically, the Women’s March took place on the same day that Naomi Parker Fraley, the woman who was the inspiration for the famous “Rosie the Riveter” image, passed away at age 96.

At the time, the young Naomi Parker was working at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California. Naomi and her younger sister Ada were assigned to the machine shop, where their duties included drilling, patching airplane wings, and, yes, riveting. It was there that an Acme photographer captured an image of Parker, her hair tied back in a polka-dot bandanna for safety, as she worked at her lathe with the caption: “Pretty Naomi Parker looks like she might catch her nose in the
turret lathe she is operating.”

The photo was published in The Pittsburgh Press, a newspaper in artist J. Howard Miller’s hometown. Although the facts are not conclusive, it is generally assumed that the photo of Naomi Parker was the inspiration for Mr. Miller’s poster.

Rendered in popping primary colors with bold graphics, the image depicts a young female in a work shirt with a red and white polka-dot bandanna wrapped around her hair. The woman, shown to be flexing her arm, declares “We Can Do It!” in a dark blue speech bubble. The poster quickly became a feminist symbol in the early 1980’s, and the name “Rosie the Riveter” was applied
to the woman it portrayed.

The death of the inspiration behind this iconic image of female empowerment comes at a time when women everywhere are rallying against oppressive politics and legislation. Although “Rosie” is no longer with us, Naomi Parker Fraley’s memory will continue to live on in the images hoisted above the heads of those protesting for women’s rights.