Northstate woman shares experience as 'Rosie'
REDDING, Calif. - During World War II, six million women joined the workforce. Those women played an important role in our American history.
Some of the first women in the workforce were known as "Rosies," they were no longer housewives, filling the shoes of men while they were off at war. Rosie the Riveter was an icon of the "We can do it campaign," spreading a message of patriotism.
"A whole life lived and the loss of many, many lives, it was a very unusual time of when things happened," said Naomi Parker-Fraley.
At 20-years-old, young and eager Parker-Fraley was told by her father she needed to do her part in the war effort. Little did she know her contribution would live on, inspiring generations of women.
The Rosie the Riveter poster by J. Howard Miller that we all know was actually based on a series of photos of women working.
Geraldine Hoff Doyle from Michigan is credited as the subject in a photo leaning over a piece of machinery, which was published in newspaper articles all across the country. Her family saying the photo was featured on the cover of the 1986 Time-Life book "The Patriotic Tide: 1940-1950."
In 2009, Naomi and her sister went to a Rosie gathering at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front Museum in Richmond, California. It was then that Naomi said she realized the photo was actually her and not Geraldine.
"I do remember that is definitely me," said Parker-Fraley.
She said the photo appeared in the Oakland Post Enquirer March 24, 1942 while she was working at the Alameda Naval Air Station.
There is evidence that Parker-Fraley is right with headlines identifying her as the subject in the photo. Days later, a photo of Parker-Fraley and her sister Ada Wyn Parker-Morford was published in the newspaper.
"They were encouraging women to dress like a man, wear a bandana and tie up their hair, and so they thought they would choose me as the object that you don't look like, they don't want anyone looking like me," said Parker-Morford.
She joined Parker-Fraley at work at the Alameda Naval Air Station as soon as she turned 17.
"They said what is differential, I said 'it's a rear end of a car' and they said 'you're hired,'" Parker-Morford recalled.
At 94-years-old, Parker-Fraley said her memory is fading, but that time of war remains vivid.
"Our brother-in-law came in and just saw a Japanese periscope and we all laughed, but the next very day the president said 'I have declared war,'" Parker-Fraley said.
In 2011, Naomi's family sent newspapers clippings to Rosie the Riverter World War II Museum Home Front National Historical Park to set the record straight.
A reply from the museum curator supervisor said the museum does not promote the identity of the image.
In other words, there is simply no way to know for sure that the photo is Parker-Fraley and not Geraldine so, they aren't willing to make the call one way or another.
But that's not enough for Parker-Fraley's family.
"It is my sister, she has the right to be known, as one of the first workers that were called in," said Ada Wyn Parker-Morford.
We tried to track down Geraldine Hoff Doyle's family, but had no luck.
For now, Parker-Fraley and her family say they will keep trying to prove she is the real inspiration for Rosie.
One way or another, as we lose more and more of this generation's women, they take with them our ability to piece together the details of our nation's rich history.