Geraldine Hoff Doyle (July 31, 1924 - December 26, 2010) is possibly the real-life model for the World War II era "We Can Do It!" poster, later thought to be an embodiment of the iconic World War II character Rosie the Riveter.
Geraldine Hoff was born in Inkster, Michigan. Her father Cornelious was an electrical contractor who died of pneumonia when she was 10 years old. Her mother, Augusta, was a composer who had scoliosis. After graduating from high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1942 Hoff found work as a metal presser in the American Broach & Machine Co. of Ann Arbor. As men started enlisting and being drafted into military service for World War II, women began to support the war effort by taking on roles, including factory work, that were formerly considered "male-only."
Because she was a cellist, Hoff feared a hand injury from the metal pressing machines and so she left the factory after having worked for only a couple weeks. During the brief time she worked there a United Press International photographer took a picture of her. That image--re-imagined by graphic artist J. Howard Miller while working for the Westinghouse Company's War Production Coordinating Committee--may have become the basis for the poster Miller created during a Westinghouse anti-absenteeism and anti-strike campaign. Soon after quitting work as a metal presser, Geraldine Hoff met and married dentist Leo Doyle in 1943. The couple had six children (a son, Gary, died in 1980) and remained married until his death in February 2010.
Because the "We Can Do It!" poster was created for an internal Westinghouse project, it did not become widely known until the 1980s, when it began to be used by advocates of women's equality in the workplace. Doyle did not know that she may have been the model for "We Can Do It!" until 1984, when she came across an article in Modern Maturity magazine which linked a photo of her to the poster, which she had not seen before. The original UPI photograph was used as the cover image for the Time-Life book The Patriotic Tide: 1940-1950 published in 1986. The Rosie the Riveter character, based on Doyle and other World War II-era women who worked in factories to support the war effort, remains an icon and appeared on a 1999 postage stamp as part of a World War II series produced by the U.S. Postal Service.
Geraldine Hoff Doyle died on December 26, 2010 in Lansing, Michigan, as a result of complications from severe arthritis, aged 86. She was survived by her five children, eighteen grandchildren and twenty-five great-grandchildren.
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