Sad news that this holiday season saw the passing of a woman whose image is so iconic even though she was unaware of her participation in it for over 40 years.
Geraldine Hoff (Doyle) (she later married and became Geraldine Doyle) was 17 years old when she graduated from High School and began work at a machine shop in support of the war effort. This was 1942 and men were leaving the workforce and enlisting into the military. For the first time women began applying for, and performing work that was traditionally only available to men.
She actually only worked at the machine shop for about two weeks, but it was during those two weeks that a photographer from United Press Associations (Now United Press International) came to the shop and photographed the new trend of women working in factories as laborers, Doyle was among those he recorded.
Enter Westinghouse Corporation. In an effort to reduce absenteeism and even potential strikes, Westinghouse hired artist J. Howard Miller to create some morale-boosting posters they could hang in their factories.
Miller came across animage of a woman, with a red polka dot bandanna, leaning over a machine press performing her diligent duty. He was taken by the image and used it as the basis for his poster " We Can Do It".
The irony of this story is that for over 40 years Geraldine Doyle had no idea she was the inspiration for the image. After all, she had only worked at the factory for two weeks and later worked in a book store before meeting and marrying her husband who would become a dentist.
Because the poster was used primarily in-house by Westinghouse in their various factoriess, the image is said to have been little noticed until the 1980s. It was around this time that Doyle came across a back issue of Modern Maturity magazine and noticed an article that chronicled the image.
"You're not supposed to have too much pride, but I can't help have some in that poster," Doyle was quoted as saying.
As far as I'm concerned she should be proud. Not just of her image that is now so iconic that it has been used as inspiration for any number of movements and because she was Rosie the Riveter, even if only for two weeks. She did, however, continue to work and did so until she turned 75 as the receptionist at her husband's dental office.
But she didn't work all the time, Geraldine also managed to have a large family that included six children, 18 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren.
Starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell (yes I believe they met through this movie) it has an amazing supporting cast that includes the always terrific Christine Lahti, Fred Ward, Ed Harris and Holly Hunter. Swing Shift chronicles the monumental changes that took place when women were asked to enter the male dominated workforce, and yes, when they were eventually told to go back home and resume their lives as wives and homemakers.
Ms. Doyle, whether she ever realized it or not, epitomozed the changes that took place back in the 1940s. ANd she lived up to that epitomization by not only working until she was 75, but by giving the country and the world a large legacy in family and effort that should not soon be forgotten.