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Posted at 5:30 PM ET, 12/30/2010

Geraldine Doyle and Rosie the Riveter

By Alexandra Petri

Today marked the passing of Geraldine Doyle, the woman whose face served as the model for Rosie the Riveter. She clearly led a long and full life, but amidst the reports of her demise, one detail of this story stuck out. Apparently, she didn't recognize that her face was on the iconic poster until 1982! And she didn't have large, powerful biceps! She had delicate, small arms, and she stopped working at the factory to protect her fingers for playing the cello!

This is like learning that the lumberjack guy on Bounty towels was actually whatever the opposite of a lumberjack is -- a mime? Harry Reid? Or that the Charmin Bears actually avoid toilet paper at all costs. Or that the model for Uncle Sam was French.

But this makes me worry. If she didn't know that she was in the picture for years, I could be on a milk carton somewhere and not know it! And if this can happen to the most iconic image of a woman of the past century, what on earth is off limits?

Mona Lisa probably didn't realize what she was sitting for. "Oh my God, that's me!" she thought, seeing the picture. "Why does my smile look so weird?"

Venus de Milo actually was a woman with arms. "That looks nothing like me," she said. "My arms are my most distinguishing feature."

I bet that's how Mark Zuckerberg felt after seeing the Social Network. "That's oddly similar to my life," he noted, wandering out of the theater. "I guess they're running out of ideas."

Or how the poker dogs feel. Or how any flowers that Georgia O'Keeffe painted feel. "That's me?" the flowers ask. "I always assumed it was something else."

But maybe it's better this way. Rosie the Riveter is one of those composite characters who dwell only in the public mind. Geraldine Doyle may have departed. But Rosie remains, indelible, greater than the sum of her body parts.

By Alexandra Petri  | December 30, 2010; 5:30 PM ET
Categories:  Petri, That's awkward  | Tags:  RIP, art  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Reports of Justin Bieber support for 'Ground Zero mosque' greatly exaggerated
Next: Natalie Portman, Hugh Hefner, and the wait for marriage


What's more, Rosie the Riveter wasn't even a riveter. She worked on a metal press machine for 2 weeks, then quit and got a job at a soda fountain. I guess we should call her "Rosie the Soda Jerk."

I agree that this is upsetting. It's like finding out that Alexandra Petri is really a 12-year-old boy in India that the Post hired to save money. But at least he's a good writer.

Posted by: divtune | December 30, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

@divtune: No, "Rosie the Riveter" was a fictitious icon, much like "Uncle Sam." Doyle only posed for the picture. Doyle wasn't "Rosie," any more than Johnny Depp is Captain Jack Sparrow. Confusing the two would be much like assuming "Alexandra" is a masculine name; a foolish mistake, to say the least.

Posted by: OldWarDog | December 30, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

I would think a newspaper such as the WP would have more respect for the passing of an individual. Just because Ms. Doyle didn't recognize she was literally the poster girl for strong women, doesn't mean the author shouldn't show respect. Maybe Ms. Doyle was too busy living life to notice the posters. I would challenge the author to read about Ms. Doyle's life and not find that Ms. Doyle truly embodied the spirit of being a strong woman. I hope I wake up one day and realize that Alexandra Petri is staring at me from the back of a milk carton so I can at least partially excuse her lack of respect in this article.

Posted by: Chemistryman6 | December 30, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm heart-broken to hear that Rosie the Riveter is fictitious. But she'll always be real to me. Every night I sing myself to sleep with that song about her: "Looks like it's me and you again tonight, Rosie"

I saw Captain Jack Sparrow's long form birth certificate, and you're right. He isn't Johnny Depp. He's really Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones (it's in Wikipedia).

Sure, the little drawing at the top of the ComPost looks female. But have you ever seen Alexandra Petri in person, or even heard her voice? Me neither. Maybe they outsourced her to India like everything else.

I guess you can't believe anyone is who they say they are. Sure, you call yourself "OldWarDog," but Wikipedia says you're really Michael Vick.

Posted by: divtune | December 31, 2010 1:34 AM | Report abuse

Chemistryman6 wrote: "I would think a newspaper such as the WP would have more respect for the passing of an individual."

Come on Chem guy, this column is very respectful. I'm sure Geraldine Doyle and St. Peter are up there chuckling away.

If you want to see disrespectful, take a look at Petri's column on Jennifer Mee. She's the "Hiccup Girl" who helped murder a poor guy named ... I forgot. But how would you like to be his mother?

Petri wrote this poem about the murder:
Poor Mee

Jennifer Mee
Committed murder in the first degree
As part of a fatal robbery
She's moved along the scale to stickups
Who first began with just the hiccups.

Posted by: divtune | December 31, 2010 2:06 AM | Report abuse

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