“Rosie the Riveter” namesake Rosalind P. Walter, who was one of millions of women to assume the traditionally-male job of driving rivets into fighter planes during World War II, has died. She was 95.
Though Walter became the archetypal image for the brigade of women that kept factories going throughout the war, her job as a riveter was only the beginning of her lifetime of contributions. According to the New York Times, she went on to become a philanthropist and major donor to organizations like PBS, and was the largest individual supporter of New York’s WNET:
Ms. Walter had been drawn to public television in part to compensate for lost opportunities during the war, said Allison Fox, WNET’s senior director for major gifts. In serving her country, Ms. Walter had sacrificed a chance to attend either Smith or Vassar College, Ms. Fox said, and found that public television documentaries and other programs helped fill in the gaps in her education.
“She cared deeply about the public being informed and felt that public television and media is the best way to accomplish this,” Ms. Fox said.
Walter was born on June 24, 1924, in Brooklyn, and grew up on Long Island’s North Shore. Her father was president and then chairman of the drug company that helped mass produce the penicillin that was distributed to the troops during the war; her next source of wealth came from her second husband, Henry Glendon Walter Jr., who headed up International Flavors and Fragrances, which provides the scents and tastes for 38,000 products.
The two also gave generously to the American Museum of Natural History, the Pierpont Morgan Library, Long Island University, the college scholarship program of the United States Tennis Association and the North Shore Wildlife Sanctuary on Long Island.
Though Walter inspired the song written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb and popularized by the Four Vagabonds, there were many “Rosie the Riveters.” Naomi Parker Fraley, who was thought to have inspired the iconic “We can do it” poster, died in 2018; Mary Doyle Keefe, the model for Norman Rockwell’s famous painting, died in 2015.