Putting a Face to the Name: The true story of the original Rosie the Riveter

In honor of the passing of Rosalind P. Walter, one of the original Rosie’s, we’re shining light on the famous face of Women Who Worked on the Home Front during World War II

Rosie the Riveter is the most iconic symbol of women’s empowerment. For over 75 years, the painting featuring a bandana clad woman with her sleeves rolled up, is the literal poster child for work in the trades industry. Many people know her face but did you know that most don’t know whose face it is? 

The most popular reference of Rosie is in Rosie the Riveter, a song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb in 1943. Inspired by [1] “Rosalind P. Walter, a Long Island women who was a riveter on Corsair fighter planes,” the song tells the tale of a little girl who is [2] “making history, working for victory” and doing “more than a male will do.” Even though Rosalind sounds like the perfect inspiration for the poster, she is not the woman behind the famous face. 

After the song’s release, Norman Rockwell, one of the nation’s most popular illustrators, drew a rendition of Rosie; however, his version was less feminine than the one we know today. 

Using Mary Keefe, a Vermont woman, as his model, Rockwell portrayed Rosie as masculine with hefty arms and a large rivet gun. [2] “She’s big and dirty. She’s oversized, with working-class brawn. She has no wedding ring” and is wearing men’s clothes. Rockwell’s Rosie depicts masculinity as power while the Rosie we know depicts a strong, motivational woman.

But was that what she was meant for all along? Was Rosie designed as propaganda to draw women to the workforce while the men fought diligently during World War II?

The answer is no. In fact, the wartime industrial poster, painted by J. Howard Miller, was never meant for the entire nation to see. It [1] “displayed briefly in Westinghouse Electric Corporation Plants” and “was intended only to deter absenteeism and strikes among Westinghouse employees in wartime.” 

Even though [3] “Rosie became one of the most successful recruitment tools in American history, and the most iconic image of working women in the World War II era”, the woman responsible for the movement was unidentified for nearly 75 years. 

It took one man six years to uncover the real Rosie.

In 2010, Dr. James J. Kimble, [1] “an associate professor of communication and the arts at Seton Hall University in New Jersey” embarked on a quest to uncover the real Rosie. He landed first on [1] “Geraldine Doyle, who in 1942 worked briefly as a metal presser in a Michigan plant.” Doyle believed herself to be the woman in a newspaper photograph published the very same year she began work at the plant. 

In all fairness, the picture is a profile of the woman’s face and it wouldn’t be shocking to find that many women believed it was them in the photo. 

For years, Doyle was identified as Rosie so much so that it was mentioned in her 2010 obituary. Without any proof that Doyle was in fact the real Rosie, Dr. Kimble continued his search and came across [4] “a copy of the photograph with the original caption glued on the back. Dated March 1942 at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, it identified ‘Pretty Naomi Parker’ as the woman at the lathe.” 

When Dr. Kimble met with Naomi Parker, now Naomi Parker Fraley, she wasn’t shocked by his findings. [4] “In 2011, at a reunion of female war workers, she saw the Acme photo of the woman at the lathe on display and recognized herself. Then she saw the caption, with Geraldine Hoff Doyle’s name and information. Fraley wrote to the National Park Service to correct the error, but got nowhere, even though she had kept a clipping of the photo from a 1942 paper with her name in the caption.” 

In 2016, Dr. Kimble published an article, Rosie’s Secret Identity, detailing his search and the real Rosie was finally brought to light. Kimble says, [4] “I think the most important thing to her was her identity. When there’s a photo of you going around that people recognize, and yet somebody else’s name is below it, and you’re powerless to change that – that’s really going to affect you. The idea that this journal article, and the media picking it up and spreading the story, helped her regain her claim on that photo and her personal identity was really the big victory for her.” 

After 75 years, we now know the face behind one of the most iconic women in the nation’s history. J. Howard Miller’s rendition of Fraley will forever be one of the best propaganda campaigns our nation will encounter. Rosie the Riveter not only motivated citizens to provide relief to the war effort and boosted the country’s morale during wartime but inspired future generations of women to accomplish whatever they set their minds to. 

We can and we will do it!


References

[1] Fox, M. (2018). Naomi Parker Fraley, the Real Rosie the Riveter, Dies at 96. [New York Times Online Article]. Retrieved on 01/23/2018 from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/22/obituaries/naomi-parker-fraley-the-real-rosie-the-riveter-dies-at-96.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news 

[2] Harvey, S. (2010). Rosie the Riveter: Real Women Workers in World War II. [Library of Congress Online Article]. Retrieved on 01/23/2018 from https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/journey/rosie-transcript.html 

[3] History Channel. (n.d.). Rosie the Riveter. [History Channel Online Article]. Retrieved on 01/23/2018 from http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/rosie-the-riveter 

[4] Pruitt, S. (2018). Uncovering the Secret Identity of Rosie the Riveter. [History Channel Online Article]. Retrieved on 01/30/2018 from http://www.history.com/news/rosie-the-riveter-inspiration 

How Small Steps Lead to Great Things: The Story of Leah Jeffery

Love At First Sight

We first met Leah Jeffery at the 2019 Fabtech Expo where she visited us at the Arc-Zone.com® booth and joined Carmen Electrode™’s first women’s meetup. She was sweet, soft-spoken, and somewhat shy. Or so we thought!! It wasn’t until a couple days later when, like a stealthy assassin, she grabbed a few koozies from our display table and began flinging them at unsuspecting passersby. We thought, “Who is this girl?!” and needed to know more! So we reached out to Leah and this is what we learned.

Trade School versus Traditional School

During my junior year of high school, I decided I wanted to do a trade. I am very dyslexic so school was a struggle, and I knew I did not want to go to college for 4 years to get a desk job. I have always loved building and inventing things so I decided to do welding the summer before my senior year after I met a guy who was a welder. He told me about the opportunities he had to travel and stories about his experience. I thought it sounded really cool, so my mom found a college, West Georgia Tech, that offered a welding program, and I signed up to dual enroll during my senior year of high school. 

I instantly loved welding. All the instructors were really cool, especially Joe Pennington; he’s a really good teacher and super encouraging.

Gaining Experience

After my first year of welding I did an internship at Alta Refrigeration over the summer. I worked on the framing crew and learned a lot. One thing that I realized from working there was I need to be in a field of welding that requires problem solving. The company was really great and I loved it, but I was kind of going crazy because I was just going through the steps and didn’t really have to use my brain. Literally toward the end of the summer, my brain was like “AHH!” It was like starving or something.

During my second year of welding school, I had a lot of free time in class because I finished all of my work for that semester the semester before. So, inspired by Instagram, I got into scrap metal art. I really liked it and made several sculptures throughout the school year. I sold a couple of them and with that money, I bought a welding machine. I cleaned out and organized the garage and created a 6×6 space in it for my shop. 

Work & Play

After I finished school in May 2019, I started working at a fab shop, Eagle River Forge. It’s pretty cool working there cause I’m working on different things every day. I get to use my brain and solve problems. I work at ERF three days a week and do my art the rest of the week.

Flashback to Fabtech

In 2018, my instructors at school encouraged us to go to Fabtech since it was local. I went the last day and was like “whoa.”  There were so many cool things and I didn’t have time to see everything, so I knew I wanted to go to the 2019 fabtech. When I saw that Works by a Hurst and Barbie the Welder were going to be there, I thought it would be cool to meet them. To make it affordable, I found some cheap Megabus tickets and was able to stay at a family friend’s house. Plus, I used public transportation to get to the exhibit hall. I’m so glad I went too, because seeing everything and meeting a bunch of different people was well worth it.

Leah, 3rd from the left, with the Carmen Electrode™ crew.

Final Thoughts

What Leah didn’t mention is that she spent nearly 15 hours on a bus just to get to Fabtech!! We are so glad that she made that trip and came to hang out with us every day of the show. She’s a trooper, a super talented metal artist, and one to watch as a rising star of the women’s welding community!! Follow Leah’s journey and see her art on Instagram.

Women Who Weld: Providing Equal Opportunities for Women in the Trades

One of the core values of the Carmen Electrode brand is empowering women. We strive to raise each other up, guide and support one another, learn and grow together, and encourage each other to take chances and step out of our comfort zones.

Through social media, we’ve been able to connect with thousands of women who exemplify these admirable characteristics. And we were lucky enough to meet with one of those women who we believe completely embodies this aspect of Carmen Electrode.

Women Who Weld creator Samantha Farr

Samantha Farr, the creator of the non-profit organization Women Who Weld, sat down with Arc-Zone’s Joanie Butler to discuss welding training, supporting women in the industry, and how Samantha went from urban planning to welding instructor.

Student Teacher

Over six years ago, Samantha pursued a Master’s degree at the University of Michigan. Although her studies were in urban planning, she knew she wanted to do something with welding but wasn’t sure how and when it would happen. As luck would have it, her courses included completing hours in the fabrication lab. “Within the first month at school getting my Master’s, I saw the fabrication lab and said, ‘This is my opportunity, I can take a welding workshop.’”

Unfortunately for Samantha, welding wouldn’t count toward her course credits but that wouldn’t stop her. With approval, Samantha created an independent study and was able to weld every Wednesday for two hours with welding instructor Mick Kennedy. “Immediately after striking my first arc, I said, ‘I have to get really good at this so I can teach other women because [they] should have this experience.’”

Practice Makes Perfect: Samantha Farr practices TIG welding in fabrication shop

Women Who Weld

After refining her welding skills, Samantha created Women Who Weld, a nonprofit organization offering free and low-cost welding courses to underemployed and unemployed women. “Typically you start a nonprofit when you have a ton of funding to do so, and I had zero but I knew that I wanted to have a program that was free of charge for unemployed and underemployed women. I really wanted to make an impact on the industry … and help transform their lives.”

Women listen as Samantha Farr teaches during Women Who Weld welding course

Samantha definitely made an impact on the industry, so much so that she’s taken her courses on the road. Samantha, along with her husband Corey, travel coast to coast teaching women of all ages the basics of welding.

In order to keep her program free, Samantha relies on grants and donations, as well as low-cost courses. One of her biggest challenges is funding but no matter how difficult it may get she says she’ll stick “with Women Who Weld because it’s always on that worst day where you get the call that says, ‘I just got that promotion!’ and also the strong, awesome community of welders where everyone is so supportive.”

Samantha Farr watches as student MIG welds

Support System

Where Samantha finds most of the support in the welding community is online, specifically Instagram. “When I first started the Women Who Weld Instagram account, I wondered what was out there and I had no idea how strong the welding Instagram community was. I’m amazed to find accounts like Carmen Electrode that showcase the women out there in the industry. To be able to see that and know we’re not alone. I have friends now, female welders from all over the country that I’ve been able to connect with because of Instagram.”

The online community is not only a great place to network and meet new people but it’s one of the places Samantha turns to for learning new techniques. “I watch Welding Tips and Tricks and other various YouTube videos. I also read a ton of books … [it] helps round out my skill set. I’m constantly learning. I wanna be an expert but it takes time. Until I’m an expert, I’ll ask for help and will continue asking for help because I like asking questions and collaborating with other people.”

Women Who Weld

The one person she enjoys collaborating with the most is her husband, Corey. “[He] is the managing partner at Women Who Weld. I taught him to weld a few years ago. He struck an arc and said, ‘This is awesome, I see why you’ve dedicated your life to this.’ We learn together and teach each other things. It’s a constant learning experience.”

To learn more about Samantha and her organization, visit www.WomenWhoWeld.org or check out @women.who.weld on Instagram.

Samantha Farr has her cake and eats it too, especially if it has her logo on it

Mending a Broken Heart

Cynthia Phillips: A Female Fabricator with a Craving for Creativity

For a lot of women, packing up their entire life to move to a different state for a new job sounds quite daunting. Factor in trying to deal with yet another male-dominated shop where you have to prove that your work is just as good (if not better) as theirs, and it sounds like something no woman would do more than once.

Cynthia Phillips Customizes her Welding GlovesMeet Cynthia Phillips, aka @hotsteelwelding, who did this not once, not twice, not even three times… but eight times! Cynthia worked at eight different shops and says, “You gotta go where the work is, especially when freelancing.”

When asked if this is where she saw her life going when she was little, she gave a definite “no.”

Cynthia’s first job was a lifeguard and swim instructor, as she had dedicated most of her childhood to swimming. “It was mainly my parents doing but looking back now, I’m grateful they encouraged me.”

Craving Creativity

When Cynthia began pursuing a career of her own liking, she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do, except that it needed to be something creative. She enrolled herself in the Alfred University, an art school in western New York known for its ceramics program and sculpture facilities. Beginning with a course in printmaking, Cynthia says, “I felt I needed to try a more hands-on course so I chose Glass Blowing one semester and Intro to Metal Fab the following semester.”

MIG Welding in Proper Welding Safety GearThe initial experience of welding was a little intimidating for Cynthia. “I wasn’t used to loud noises or sparks flying but after completing my first project, I was hooked.” She dropped out of her printmaking course and pursued sculpture full time.

Cynthia’s passion for welding turned into a career of a lifetime. She started out building small sets for local theaters and through several referrals, travelled the country to work on commercial and event sets for various shops throughout the country. She even went to Brazil to fabricate a set for the NBC News Studio during the 2016 Olympics.

Reaching for the Stars

Cynthia says it’s who you know more than what you know and credits her networking skills more than her own talents for how far she’s come over the years. “Networking is key! I find it very important to network and meet as many builders, drafters and shops as possible.” One referral at one shop leads to two or three referrals to another shop and as soon as you know it, you’re a traveling freelance sculptor who builds set pieces for musicians on tour.

Set Piece Fabricated for Beyonce's TourEver heard of Katy Perry or the queen bee, Beyonce? Yeah, Cynthia’s fabricated numerous set pieces for their tours. “Both Katy Perry and Beyonce have given the shop I work for really challenging and fun projects. I’d have to say the stainless steel chair we made for Beyonce was the most intricate welding job I’ve been part of.” Cynthia’s hard work paid off. Beyonce loved her chair so much, she ordered two more to give as Christmas gifts.

Cynthia had the pleasure of working for two empowering women but hasn’t had the chance to work with any yet.

This is a Man’s World

Cynthia Phillips Stacks DimesThe trades industry is saturated with men and it’s extremely difficult for women to integrate well into this workforce. She says, “I experience a lot of anxiety before showing up at a new shop. I always feel I have to prove myself and explain why I want to be a welder. Also, harassment is a real issue; I’ve left a shop because of this. But that’s why you network. You learn who you want to work for and with.”

One of the best ways to network nowadays, besides hustling across the country like Cynthia, is through social media.

The Social Network

Thanks to social media, it’s a lot easier to find people with the same interests, aspirations and desires as you. With the current state of women in the workforce, especially a male dominated industry like the trades, it is so important to network with women in similar situations. Cynthia says, “I always looked up to the WWII photos I would find online of women working in shops. Then I started my Instagram and began seeing more and more women and groups of women welding. I was in awe and instantly motivated!”

Fabricating Pieces for Set DesignsSomething great about the women’s online welding community is that they are not afraid to share both sides of the #WeldLife. They post their strengths and weaknesses, ups and downs and the hurdles they encounter to become the strong women they are today. It’s a place we all can go to gain insight, seek advice and like Cynthia, become motivated for the next project.

Like the wonderful women’s community, Cynthia was more than happy to share her insight of the welding industry. Continue reading to see what she has to say about tools, apparel and more …


What are your favorite welding tools to use?

I might be biased but my favorite welding tool would have to be my personal welder, a Miller Diversion 180. I love that this welder is tiny enough to travel to a job site yet powerful enough to run all day long. I saved and saved and researched this welder before I bought it. I’m just proud whenever I see it.

And, I could not work without my strong hand clamps. Lifesavers!

Which tool was the easiest/most difficult to learn to use?Mrs. Roboto

The MIG welder was easy to get the hang of.

Using the TIG welder was challenging and I would say the most difficult to learn. It took a lot of patience and practice but now it’s what I use the most. It’s hard to imagine back when I had trouble with it.

What brand of safety gear/apparel is your favorite?

This is a tough question for me. I find it extremely difficult to find protective welding gear that fits me. Most of the big companies only carry men’s sizes.

I used “Angel Fire” welding jackets but tend to go through them quickly.

I use Tillman TIG gloves in small- when I can find those.

Other than that, I’ve tried some of the women’s Carhartt line and Dickies Girl.

It’s pretty cool that your career is what some people are only lucky to have as a hobby, what do you do outside of work for fun?

Hidden Gems on the Roads Less TraveledI still build stuff for fun and even dabble in carpentry.

But everyone needs a break from the shop. My boyfriend and I have a 1956 Shasta camper we take out to the desert or the beach. We try to take the roads less traveled. Always looking for an old motel sign or abandoned building to take photos of. You’d probably see us on Route 66!

I’ve also been learning how to skateboard.

Trying to challenge myself in everything.

Lastly, what advice would you give girls/women looking to enter into the trades industry?

Don’t give up, never be afraid to ask questions, always listen and smile!

That old guy whose been at the shop forever can teach you a lot. I know from experience.

 

Barbie the Welder, Welding

This Barbie has Built Her Own Dream Garage

Before she earned her place as one of Instagram’s & YouTube’s welding sensations, Barbie the Welder was just a small town girl shoveling snow around her neighborhood to make a quick buck. 

From the time she was 7 or 8 years old, Barbie knew the importance of hard work. Barbie the Welder, Learning from Dad, Welding, Shop Time, Father Daughter“My dad always worked hard to provide for our family. I looked up to him. He was funny, rode motorcycles and always had me by his side when he was working around the house. He taught me so many things and was the catalyst for my love of building things and working with my hands,” says Barbie. 

Although Barbie’s father wasn’t a welder, he ignited her passion for craftsmanship and the satisfaction derived from physical labor. She worked for years as an auto mechanic out of high school, followed by a few years as a metal scrap hauler, but Barbie struggled to make ends meet. She recalls, “It was super tough. You work every day to hopefully make money enough to get you gas to find more metal. I really didn’t have any money, and our family was living in the projects.”

Little did she know that one simple scene would change her life forever.

For most people, the Tom Hanks’ movie, Castaway is just an iconic movie. Barbie the Welder Angel Wings Metal Art Welding But for Barbie the Welder, it was the spark of inspiration that set her on the course to find her purpose and pursue her destiny. Barbie says, “I saw the woman in the beginning of the movie welding giant angel wings, and it spoke to my soul.” For the next nine months, she saved every extra penny she earned from metal hauling to put herself through a $1200, 6 month, 104 hour adult welding class. Without really knowing where they would lead, Barbie began her courses in the hopes of becoming a sculptor. What happened next was a welcome surprise.

“My teacher saw my passion and potential and told me to talk to Kenny at Cameron Manufacturing and Design, a local custom fab shop,” says Barbie, “I asked for $10 an hour, figuring I was worth about $9 and it would give me some wiggle room. So I did all my testing and they offered me $13. I was beyond blown away! After making peanuts working for myself, it was a game changer.”

Barbie the Welder, Under the Hood, Miller Digital Elite Welding Helmet3 ½ years later, Barbie earned enough money to buy her family a nice house with a garage large enough to convert into a metal shop. It took 9 more months to save money to purchase the machines, but the wait was worth it.

She continued to work at Cameron Manufacturing and Design while working part time out of her own shop. But on September 1, 2014 Barbie resigned from Cameron’s and started working full time for herself. She remembers, “It wasn’t easy, but it was a means to an end. I knew that in order to do great things, there is a lot of sacrifice and no instant rewards. It’s long term sacrifice for those rewards.”

Here at Arc-Zone, we’ve identified Barbie as a source of inspiration; what makes her even more real, is Barbie’s honesty and openness to sharing her struggles. If you don’t follow her on Instagram @BarbietheWelder, you’re missing out. Not only does she showcase her incredible talent, but she shares the trials and errors of working with metal. Often, projects don’t turn out exactly how we want them, and Barbie shows us that persistence and determination are really the only secrets to making improvements in our work. Barbie the Welder, It's ok to Make a mistake, Metal Art, Sculpture, WeldingChallenging ourselves and staying committed can lead to our best work. It all starts with personal responsibility.

We wondered who this inspiring woman looks up to. She replied, “There are many beautiful, fierce women in the welding industry that I admire. Jessi Combs, April Wilkerson, and Cynthia Gauthier. Just to name a few!”

What else does Barbie have to say about women in welding and welding in general? Read her responses to our “Rosie” interview to learn more…

What advice would you give girls/women looking to enter into the trades industry?
If it’s what you really love, go all in! Welding has given me good self-esteem, improved my financial situation, and allowed me to create opportunities for myself that I never imagined!

What are the hardest hurdles to overcome in the welding industry?
I feel that getting the education that I wanted, in the fab shop I worked at, was a challenge.

What are your favorite welding tools to use?
My mind is my favorite tool! If it has to be welding, I would say my MIG because it’s so versatile!

Barbie the Welder, Miller, Digital Elite helmet, Welding TableWhat brands of safety gear/apparel are your favorites?
Any safety gear is my favorite because I love my face and fingers right where they are! When it comes to welding, I only use Miller Elite hoods! Super durable and great features!

What do you love most about welding and fabrication?
I love seeing a picture in my head and being able to form, shape, and bend metal to create it. The only limit is my imagination!

Favorite/memorable project?
My favorite project so far is my 5′ tall Sorrowful Angel sculpture

How do you best learn new skills?
I learn new skills by jumping in and trying, I’m a hands on kind of person.

Lastly, it’s pretty cool that your career is what some people are only lucky to have as a hobby, what do you do outside of work for fun?
I love to spend time with my family, travel, hunt, fish, and play in the mud! I have two amazing sons, 24, and 13 years old. My younger son started welding with me when he was 5 and went on to design and create his own sculptures but has gone on to blacksmithing and cooking. (I really love the cooking!)

Connect with Barbie or buy her Books & Creations:  

Barbie the Welder, Horseshoe Crafts, Welding Projects