The real-life inspiration behind a timeless World War II image has died at age 96, CNN reports. Naomi Parker Fraley was a California native and a wartime factory worker, but most people knew her as the real Rosie the Riveter.
Her rise to icon status began in the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941. Like thousands of women across the country, she took a job in a factory to aid the war effort. She was 20 years old when she was working in the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California, patching airplane wings and operating rivet machines. It was there that a photographer touring the station snapped the photograph that would launch countless imitations.
In the picture, Fraley is shown leaning over a machine in a jumpsuit with her hair pulled back by a red-and-white polka dot bandana. The photograph was shared in numerous newspapers and magazines and eventually adapted by artist J. Howard Miller in the famous 1943 Rosie the Riveter poster.
The image was originally used as a tool to boost wartime morale, but has since grown into a universal symbol for women’s empowerment. Rosie’s unmistakable look is still a popular source of inspiration for artists and celebrities, but until recently, no one knew the real woman behind the character.
For years, a woman named Geraldine Hoff Doyle was mistakenly identified as the woman in the Naval Air Station photograph. Only when a Seton Hall University professor named James J. Kimble unearthed the original photo with Fraley’s name in the caption was the true subject confirmed. When he reached out to Fraley with the news in 2016, it didn’t come as a total surprise to her. She had recognized herself in the photo when she saw it at a former wartime workers convention a few years earlier, even though the caption named a different woman.
According to her family, Fraley died in hospice care in Longview, Washington on January 20, the same day that hundred of thousands of protesters came out for the second annual Women’s March.