Doyle was working at a Michigan metal factory in 1941 when a United Press International photographer snapped this photo of the slender 17-year-old laboring in a polka-dot bandanna:
Geraldine Doyle » Amazon.com
“We Can Do It!” Poster » Wallstreetjournal.com
Rosie the Riveter illustration » Huffingtonpost.com
Because the “We Can Do It!” poster was an internal Westinghouse Corporation project, the poster did not become a pop culture icon until her image was revived by advocates of women’s equality in the workplace during the 1980s.
For decades Doyle was unaware she was the inspiration behind the “We Can Do It!” poster — she quit working at the factory one week after the photo was taken, because she feared she may permanently damage her hands on the equipment. It wasn’t until 1982, when she came across the original photograph in a 1940s issue of Modern Maturity magazine, that Doyle realized she was the woman behind the classic image.
Doyle then began making appearances as Rosie the Riveter, signing autographs until her arthritis made it too painful for her to write.
“You’re not supposed to have too much pride, but I can’t help have some in that poster,” Mrs. Doyle told the Lansing State Journal in 2002. “It’s just sad I didn’t know it was me sooner.”