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Rosie the Riveter: Real-Life Inspiration for Iconic WW2 'We Can Do It!' Poster Dies at 86

Rosie the Riveter: Real-Life Inspiration for Iconic WW2 'We Can Do It!' Poster Dies at 86

Her familiar determined image inspired millions of women to heed the call to enter the workforce during World War II, and her empowering message continues to motivate young girls to live up to their full potential today.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle is not a name many may remember. But her portrait as a young woman dressed in a factory uniform and red polka-dot head kerchief, arm flexed to show off her feminine muscle and bold declaration of "We can do it!" continues to live on even as Doyle passed away this week at age 86 in Michigan.

During the war, Doyle joined 6 million other women in contributing to the war effort and her image, representative of these "Rosie the Riveter" women -- named after a Norman Rockwell painting of the same name -- continued to inspire women long after the war ended.  As the New York Daily News reports, women's rights advocates of the 1960s and 1970s adopted Doyle's iconic image, an instant classic.

"She would say that she was the 'We Can Do It!' girl," her daughter Stephanie Gregg of Eaton Rapids, assistant dean of admissions for Cooley Law School, told the Lansing Journal in 2002 after the her mother was honored by the Michigan Historical Center and Hall of Fame.

"She never wanted to take anything away from the other Rosies," she said.

During the war, Geraldine worked as a metal presser in an Ann Arbor, Mich., factory -- one of the many jobs once only considered suitable for men.

It was during her time working in the factory that a wire photographer snapped her picture -- an image graphic artist J. Howard Miller later used to make the war-time poster while he worked for the Westinghouse Company's War Production Coordinating Committee.

Shortly after leaving her work at the factory, Geraldine met and married her husband, Leo Doyle.  Together the couple had six children and ran a successful dental practice in Lansing. The two remained married until Leo died earlier this year.

"My dad died Feb. 28," Gregg said. "My mom said, 'I don't know how I'll live without him.' "

Geraldine passed away Sunday at age 86.  She is survived by five children, 18 grandchildren, and 25 great-grandchildren.

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