Geraldine Hoff Doyle, 'We Can Do It!' poster inspiration, dies at 86
December 30th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Geraldine Hoff Doyle, 'We Can Do It!' poster inspiration, dies at 86

The woman who inspired the famous World War II "We Can Do It!" poster has died.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle was just 17 when a United Press photographer captured her in 1942 working at a Michigan metal factory, wearing a red polka-dotted bandanna.

Her pretty face caught the eye of artist J. Howard Miller, who had been commissioned by the government to create a series of motivational posters for factory workers.

The face on the poster was Doyle's, but the powerful muscles were not, her daughter Stephanie Gregg of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, told The New York Times.

"She didn't have big, muscular arms," Gregg said in the Times' obituary. "She was 5-foot-10 and very slender. She was a glamour girl. The arched eyebrows, the beautiful lips, the shape of the face — that's her."

Doyle abandoned the factory job after just two weeks, worried that she might injure her hands and not be able to play cello anymore, according to the Washington Post. She took a job at a soda fountain, where she met her future husband.

The poster eventually became an icon of women's empowerment, but Doyle never recognized her own face on it until 1984, when she saw it in Modern Maturity magazine, the Lansing (Michigan) State Journal reported.

Doyle was married for 66 years to dentist Leo Doyle, who died in February. They had six children, 18 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren. Geraldine Doyle died Sunday at a hospice facility in Lansing, her daughter said. She was 86.

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Filed under: Art • History • Michigan • Obituary • U.S. • War
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. michaelfury

    Yes we can.

    December 30, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |

      and see the mess HE created....

      NO HE CAN'T !!!!

      December 30, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
    • MyCNNTake

      @NYC_APT_SITTER – You must be talking about George W. Bush right?

      December 30, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • DKrash

      Your glass is half Empty... America has been through tough times before and we have pulled through.

      December 30, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      NYC...that HE created. HAHAHAHA the ability of the right to live in complete denial amazes me on a daily basis. This mess was left in his lap like a stinking fish.

      December 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      NYC_apt_sitter.. bwaaahaaa! Obama inherited a 5h1t sandwich from Bush, remember? Oh, he didn't? Ohhh, right, I forgot all about how Obama and Cheney gave up on bin Laden and Afghanistan to go invade Iraq to try to make some guy's daddy proud, spending hundreds of billions of dollars, flushing Clinton's surplus down the toilet, and driving up a deficit that'll take at least three presidential terms to fix. Yeah, somewhere along the line I forgot how to be a revisionist moron. Thanks for reminding us! 😀

      December 30, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • God

      An apt sitting parasite complaining about our President.

      Apt Sitter: you produce *nothing*, except greenhouse gas. You are a useless appendage in our society, used by the wealthy to make sure that their possessions are not pilfered while they trot around the globe.

      You are as disposable as a tissue.

      December 30, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yiddishlion

      Facts are a REAL problem for stupid liberals;

      January 3rd, 2007 was the day the Democrats took over the Senate and the
      Congress. At that time:
      DOW Jones closed at 12,621.77
      GDP for the previous quarter was 3.5%
      Unemployment rate was 4.6%
      Bush's Economic policies SET A RECORD of 52 STRAIGHT MONTHS of JOB CREATION!
      ***ON THAT DAY, JANUARY 3RD 2007:
      Barney Frank took over the House Financial Services Committee.
      Chris Dodd took over the Senate Banking Committee.
      The economic meltdown that happened 15 months later was in what part of the
      THANK YOU DEMOCRATS for taking us from 13,000 DOW, 3.5 GDP and 4.6%
      Unemployment... to this CRISIS by (among MANY other things) dumping 5-6
      TRILLION Dollars of toxic loans on the economy from YOUR Fannie Mae and Freddie
      Mac ! (BTW: Bush asked Congress 17 TIMES to stop Fannie & Freddie – starting in
      2001 because it was Financially risky for the US economy):
      And who took the THIRD highest pay-off from Fannie Mae AND Freddie Mac????
      And who fought against reform of Fannie and Freddie??? OBAMA!

      December 30, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liora

      Reported abuse.

      December 30, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. al elkins

    This article needs a picture of ms doyle!

    December 30, 2010 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Dani

      I am not sure how to do it. But this has a real photo of her.

      December 30, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • DKrash

      ...not that this makes it any better, but I worked for a gentleman that knew Ms Doyle personally and had pictures of her standing next to the poster shown. Unfortunatly this was quite a few years ago and we have lost contact.

      December 30, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Rosalind

      Sorry Dani, but the pic on that link is not Mrs. Doyle. It's another "Rosie". The lady's name is in the photo's caption. Good find, though. The page was an interesting read.

      December 30, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • RH of WI

      Yes it does

      December 30, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Damiana

      Oops...that's a picture of Rose Will Monroe, not Geraldine Hoff Doyle.

      December 30, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken Banks

      Couldn't agree more! But finding one is tough ...

      December 30, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. cindy

    Yes it does!!!

    December 30, 2010 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. ross

    Another member of "The Greatest Generation" gone.......R.I.P. Mrs. Doyle.

    December 30, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. gazer9757

    I had a postcard of this image hung up at every base I was stationed. It hung just at eye level by my desk to give me inspiration of working hard. My prayers go out to her family.

    December 30, 2010 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. DerpDiggler

    Looks like she didn't do it! 🙂

    December 30, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. greg

    ......and we did.

    December 30, 2010 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • JM

      Unfortunately, our armed forces continue to fight with their hands tied and with too many left wing rules. We might never see another Rosy again...

      December 30, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • LeftMind

      Just give us the goals, and we'll fight. What is this Iraq thing for again?

      December 30, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Rob Johnson

    Talk about the role of Fate in one's life!

    Only 2 weeks on the factory job. Just long enough to have her picture taken.

    And would she have caught the eye of the photographer had she not been wearing the distinctive red polka-dot kerchief? Another element of Fate.

    Then goes to work at a soda fountain and once again Fate determines her life: her future husband walks up to the counter!

    Then 66 years of marriage, six children and a whole bunch of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Truly a Rockwell tapestry of real life in what used to be the United States of America.

    December 30, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. The Ghost of Elvis

    Did she play the cello ever again?

    December 30, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. Turtle Soup

    I'm disappointed to learn that she quit the job after such a short time, considering that the poster was created to be inspirational for factory workers.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Wartime factory work was EXTREMELY dangerous. In Philadelphia alone, 20000 people died per year in accidents manufacturing war supplies, weapons and ships.
      Had she remained and been killed or maimed, they probably would have pulled that poster.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Turtle Soup

      Sure, and I am not arguing that. I just think that the message of the painting contradicts the fact that the woman only lasted two weeks. Yes we can what? Give up after two weeks?

      December 30, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • ash

      i don't think this poster was made purely for factory workers. it's women in general. you have to think this was 1940s and woman did not work. just woman getting out there, trying to be equal to whatever men were still here. thats why women had to work, that's why people planted the victory gardens, and rationed food. it wasn't just factory's that needed women to work, every where needed to work, and as a 17 year old single girl, why not get a better job if the option is there, and you have no husband or kids to be responsible for? as women we do that now, taking what we can get until something better comes along. this woman's story, is the typical american woman's story. her life shaped what we idealize ours to be now. may she rest in peace!

      December 30, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      likely none of the women inspired by the poster knew that she quit after two weeks. the poster accomlished its goal and beyond, by inspiring generations of women to achieve their goals

      December 30, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • B

      Why would you be 'disappointed'? Because her life was real and not some fictionalised 'feel good' story? Why in blazes did it have to do with you anyway? What if she had been a model, hired for the poster? Would that burst your bubble, too?

      December 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      That is how ALL propaganda works. Any time you see or hear anything that is intended to be politically inspirational, remember that poster, and remember that it is driven by an agenda.

      December 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edward

      She did the right thing, If she enjoyed playing music why continue working someplace that could jeopardize that. If you were a musician you would understand.

      December 30, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • LEB

      It doesn't matter that Ms Doyle happened to quit her job... Rosie as an icon was inspired by the young woman's looks, not the young woman's life. I doubt many people knew she was modeled after a real person. And actually, if you find a picture of Ms Doyle as a young woman, the resemblance isn't wholly accurate anyway. Rosie is still Rosie, and still true to everything she represents.

      December 30, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken Banks

      She only lasted two weeks on the job out of CHOICE, not because she couldn't handle it. The message of the poster still rings true and isn't at all diminished by her choice. If she had run from the factory in tears and given public lectures encouraging women to not work and only procreate in the years that followed, well, that would be something totally different.

      December 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • carlgt1

      well it worked for Sarah Palin - she quit as governor after only 2 years - and is still lauded and held up as a right-wing icon!

      December 30, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Russ

    Very little in our lives is actually under our control. Coincidence and randomness rule. You are in the right place at the right time, and you become famous. In the wrong place and you might die. Pick the right numbers you become rich. If you are good in sports and the right person sees you, you go to the majors. If you are in the right place you meet your soulmate. If you aren't, you may live a lonely life. Not saying you should leave everything to coincidence. You have to become educated and try to better yourself.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • charls

      So very true. People often tout that I did this or I did that, without considering that much of our lives is determined by where we were born and who were are parents. We usually have much power over our childrens' lives then over our own.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. Veritas

    A picture would have been great. Rest in Peace Mrs. Doyle. Condolences to her family.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. Septocaine

    Not anymore we can't. Now it's "Yes we can!!!!" Demaning free dual citizenship Amigo.... The greatest generation has been replaced by generational welfare folks and illegals with grubby paws. Our grandparents would have kicked them where it counts and shown them the door. That generation is long gone, replaced by Socialists and Liberals. What a shame.

    December 30, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Actually, my mother would have fed you your own words. She grew up during the Great Depression, but she DID have an element of compassion.
      And I've also watched her knock a 6 foot 5 inch man flat on his butt and send him running.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Kyle

      Don't forget "conservatives" too. The problem today isn't liberals or conservatives. It's the fanatical partisan zeal on both sides that keeps us from working together for the common good.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • ross


      December 30, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • brianNH

      you sure got that right!!!

      December 30, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amused

      It is the radical conservatives who have become the "No We Can't" party with the overt agenda of obstructing as much progress as possible, then blaming Obama for all of the crap that George W Bush created and handed to him.

      December 30, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cee

      Interesting thought, however; your grandparents and just about everyone in this country are either imigrants themselves or decendents of. Funny how people forget that. And please, unless you are a true "Native American"...don't bother arguing this point.

      December 30, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • SalSal Gamboni

      Your so-called "Native American" is an immigrant, too. Every human being on this continent is an immigrant, the difference is whether you contravened the laws of this country to get here.

      December 30, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • LEB

      One would think you'd be grateful to no longer be destined to work a factory job, and instead to have much more comfortable job prospects behind a computer. Technology is the great equalizer, and you no longer have to have brawn to earn a good living. Personally, I'm happy the manufacturing jobs have gone overseas... as long as the administration, engineering, legal, accounting, marketing, sales, and management jobs stay here.

      December 30, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ChrisMeece

    I'm confused. I thought the original Rosie the Riveter passed away in 1997. She was from my hometown of Somerset Ky. Here is her story from the New York Times:

    December 30, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • F.U. Morely

      I was wondering the same thing. Who is the real Rosie?

      December 30, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Jesse

      It clearly states in the article that you posted that the poster was already famous, when they found that woman in your article to play a part in a movie about a fictional Rosie the Riveter. They wanted to make a movie because of the poster and the song, so they picked a woman named Rose. It's not like Audie Murphy playing himself in the movie about his life, she was after the fact.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Zac

      This poster is not "Rosie the Riveter." The article is correct in not using that name.

      December 30, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
    • F.U. Morely

      Either way, another great icon from America's history is gone. For some reason, the AC/DC song called "Whole lotta Rosie" comes to mind. Makes me want to listen to it one more time...

      December 30, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Rod Venger

      "Rosie the Riveter" is an amalgamation of a lot of women. She's an on:

      "Rosie the Riveter (fl. 1942-1945), Rose Will Monroe (1920-1997), and Rose Bonavita (1921-1966), iconic figure of the women who worked in defense industries during World War II, was a composite of the experiences of many real women, including Rose Bonavita, Rosalind P. Walter, Geraldine Hoff Doyle, and Rose Will Monroe.

      During World War II the term "Rosie" was used to refer to all women who worked in defense industries and not just riveters."

      December 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. LeAnne

    I thought of you when I saw this article. Kinda interesting.


    December 30, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
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