Geraldine Hoff Doyle, Inspiration for "Rosie the Riveter" Dies of Arthritis Complications at Age 86

 Rosie the RiveterGeraldine Hoff Doyle (July 31, 1924 — December 26, 2010) was the real-life model for the World War II era We Can Do It posters, an embodiment of the iconic World War II character Rosie the Riveter.


Geraldine Hoff was born in Inkster, Michigan. Her father Cornelious was an electrical contractor who died of pneumonia when she was 10 years old. Her mother, Augusta, was a composer stricken with scoliosis. AfterGeraldine Hoff in the original photo that inspired Rosie poster graduating from high school in Ann Arbor, in 1942 Geraldine found work as a metal presser in a Michigan factory. (As men started enlisting and being drafted into military service for World War II, women began to support the war effort by taking on roles, including factory work, that were formerly considered "male only.")

Because she was a cello player, Geraldine feared a hand injury from the metal pressing machines and soon left the factory. During the brief time she worked there a wire photographer took a picture of her. That image - re-imagined by graphic artist J. Howard Miller while working for the Westinghouse Company's War Production Coordinating Committee -- became the basis for the poster Miller created during a Westinghouse anti-absenteeism and anti-strike campaign.

Soon after quitting work as a metal presser, Geraldine Hoff met and married dentist Leo Doyle,  to whom she remained married until his death in early 2010.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle inspired millions of womenBecause the We Can Do It poster was created for an internal Westinghouse project, it did not become widely known until the 1980s, when it began to be used by advocates of women's equality in the workplace.

The "We Can Do It" poster was revived during the women's liberation period in the 1960s and 1970s as an inspiration to millions of women to inspire them to be more than just housewives and mothers and to strive for equal pay and promotions in the workplace. It even enjoyed a brief come-back during the early 21st century as an icon for the pro-choice lobby with the word's "Keep Your Laws Off My Body" replacing the "We Can Do It" phrase from the original poster.

The picture of a strong woman with muscles has shown as an inspiration and perhaps even a sexual icon to the lesbian community since World War II and whether Mrs. Doyle wanted to or not, the Rosie the Riveter poster remains as much a part of the lesbian culture as Patsy Cline does in the juke boxes in many lesbian bars.

Doyle didn't know she was the model for We Can Do It until 1984, when she came across the original photograph in an issue of Modern Maturity magazine.

The Rosie the Riveter character, based on Doyle and other World War II-era women who worked in factories to support the war effort, remains an icon and appeared on a 1992 postage stamp as part of a World War II series produced by the U.S. Postal Service.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle died on December 26, 2010 in Lansing, Michigan, due to complications from arthritis, aged 86.

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