“We Can Do It”: Rosie the Riveter and the Power of Public Art

The recent passing of the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter underscores the importance of public art … and the role of women. The real Rosie the Riveter—Naomi Parker Fraley, a waitress in California—lived to be 96. An image of Naomi, hair tied in a polka-dot bandana, became an iconic symbol for unity during World War II and, later, for feminism. After she died January 20, 2018, her lengthy obituary in The New York Times was worthy of rock stars or heads of state. She was overlooked for decades, but when the public learned that Naomi was Rosie the Riveter, she said she wanted neither fame nor fortune.

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