At 17 years of age her face inspired the troops on the home front to remain a strong and dependable force during the Second World War. She was then, and always will be the fresh-but-steel-faced girl with bulging biceps that radiated grit and determination. Her name was Geraldine Hoff Doyle and she passed away on Sunday at 84 years of age.
You may not know her name, but you’ve undoubtedly seen that face of Rosie the Riveter at some point.
Doyle was a 17 year old girl who worked in a Michigan steelworks. It was there that the United Press took a photograph that immortalised her, etching her steely image into the minds of a generation at war with dark forces in Europe.
She became the face of the ‘We Can Do It’ poster which was commissioned by artist J. Howard Miller during World War II, and it was used as a motivational piece to inspire a nation of female workers to take up manufacturing jobs in a bid to support the war effort overseas.
Doyle looks like a tough customer on the original posters, all muscle and grit with a face that says, “Don’t mess,” but in reality she was a much svelter figure.
Stephanie Gregg, Doyle’s daughter, told the New York Times, “She was 5-foot-10 and very slender. She was a glamour girl. The arched eyebrows, the beautiful lips, the shape of the face — that’s her,” daughter Stephanie Gregg tells the New York Times.
Doyle certainly led more women to factories as workers but her own career in industry ended all too soon. According to Gregg she left the steelworks in Michigan a short while after the picture was taken, because she was worried about injuring her hands which in turn could lead to her being unable to enjoy one of her passions in life – cello playing.
While her face was the poster campaign’s driving force, it wasn’t until almost 40 years later in 1984 that Doyle recognized herself as the inspiration behind it.
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