Rosie the Riveter 'who inspired get women working' poster dies aged 95

One of the original women who famously took on traditionally male jobs of riveting during World War Two has died aged 95.

Rosalind P. Walter was one of millions who challenged the status quo and worked on an assembly line to arm US troops and inspired the cultural icon ‘Rosie the Riveter’. The great grandmother and well-known philanthropist died on Wednesday at her apartment in Manhattan, New York.

Mrs Walter became the subject of the 1942 song of the same name and the famous poster reading ‘We Can Do It!’ which was the archetypal image of the women who kept factories afloat during the war. It is still to this day used as a symbol of female equality across the world.

Rosalind, whose friends called her Roz rather than Rosie, was born June 24, 1924 and grew up on Long Island, New York.

At the age of 19, Mrs Walter started working night shifts in the typically male job of driving rivets into fighter planes at the Vought Aircraft Company plant in Connecticut during the war.

There are differing stories about how Ms Walter and her fellow colleagues became historic icons.

According to the New York Times, local newspaper columnist Igor Cassini featured her in a piece which is said to have caught the attention of songwriters, John Jacob Loeb and Redd Evans, who went on to write the hit song.

But a business partner of Mr Loeb’s, music historian Robert Lissauer, said it was pure coincidence that the song featured a variation of Mrs Walter’s name. He said the writers wanted to honour the women’s efforts during the war through a song, which was recorded by the Four Vagabonds.

‘So they just made up the name “Rosie the Riveter.” You pick a name for the alliteration and you go ahead and write it,’ Mr Loeb told the Washington Post.

This then inspired J. Howard Miller’s iconic poster of a woman in factory overalls, with her hair pushed back in a bandana, while flexing her biceps. Other female workers soon became models for Rosie the Riveter posters and magazine covers.

Although she may not be able to claim the sole inspiration of the movement, Mrs Walter continued her humanitarian efforts long after the war and later worked as a nurse’s aide at Bellevue Hospital, Manhattan.

She married a lieutenant with the Naval Reserve, Henry S. Thompson, with whom she had a son named Henry.

They divorced in the 1950s, but she remarried some years later to CEO of International Flavors and Fragrances Henry Glendon Walter Jr. The pair donated generously to museums, libraries, universities, wildlife sanctuaries and sport scholarship programmes and created NGO the Rosalind P. Walter Foundation.

She became a well-known philanthropist and believed deeply in the importance of educating the masses through broadcast media and supported public television programming across the US.

Mrs Walter was the largest individual supporter of WNET, the primary Public Broadcasting Service, and helped to finance 67 shows or series from 1978.

According to WNET’s senior director for major gifts, Allison Fox, she was drawn to public television partially to make up for educational opportunities she lost while working in the war.

Mrs Walter had passed up chances to attend university and used documentaries and television to help educate herself.

‘She cared deeply about the public being informed and felt that public television and media is the best way to accomplish this,’ Ms. Fox told the New York Times.

Mrs Walter also served as a board member on several New York organisations, including the American Museum of Natural History and The Paley Center for Media.

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