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Rosalind P. Walter (1924–2020), the original Rosie the Riveter

by Linnea Crowther

Rosalind P. Walter was an heiress whose work building fighter planes during World War II inspired the creation of Rosie the Riveter. In later years, she became a philanthropist who supported causes including wildlife conservation, public television, and education opportunities for disadvantaged young people.

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Died: March 4, 2020 (Who else died on March 4?)


Details of death: Died at home in Manhattan at the age of 95.

Is there someone you miss whose memory should be honored? Here are some ways.

Rosie the Riveter: Walter was fresh out of high school, the daughter of a wealthy pharmaceutical CEO, when she was inspired to join the war effort. She went to work in at the Vought Aircraft Factory in Stratford, Connecticut, where she drove rivets into Corsair fighter planes. She was one of many American women who took on factory work as young men went to war, but this wealthy and privileged young woman gained widespread attention after syndicated newspaper columnist Igor Cassini heard her story and wrote about her in his column. His retelling of her story inspired songwriters Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb to write the 1942 song “Rosie the Riveter,” which was made famous by Kay Kyser and the Four Vagabonds. The popular song drove a movement toward women signing up to help with the war effort. The image of Rosie the Riveter became a symbol of the war effort at home, inspiring art including a Norman Rockwell painting and the iconic “We Can Do It!” poster, created by artist J. Howard Miller and featuring another woman as the model for Rosie the Riveter.

From the song “Rosie the Riveter”: “All day long whether rain or shine / She’s a part of the assembly line / She’s making history, working for victory / Rosie, brrrr, the Riveter”

Full obituary: The New York Times

Related lives:

  • Naomi Parker Fraley (1921–2018), inspiration for iconic “We Can Do It!” poster
  • Dorothy Olsen (1916–2019), one of WWII’s last surviving Women Airforce Service Pilots
  • Greta Zimmer Friedman (1924–2016), subject of famous “V-J Day in Times Square” photo

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