Rosalind P. (Palmer) Walter passed away at the age of 95. She is known to millions as the original inspiration for the “Rosie the Riveter” character.
She is appreciated by many for her years of service and support for public broadcasting.
Walter grew up in a wealthy family in Long Island. Her father was Carleton Palmer who was president and chairman of E.R. Squibb and Sons (which is now part of Bristol Myers Squibb). Squibb and sons sold penicillin which was in high demand due to the war.
Walter’s mother was W. Bushnell who taught literature at Long Island University. When the US entered World War II, Walter did not go off to college as she could have, but supported the war effort by working in an airplane factory.
With most of the country’s men off serving in the military, women rose up to take the jobs those men vacated. Walter worked the night shift attaching rivets to Corsair fighter planes in a plant in Connecticut.
Syndicated columnist Igot Cassini published an article about her in his “Cholly Knickerbocker” column. Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb wrote a song in 1942 which was based on that article.
The Four Vagabonds recorded “Rosie the Riveter” in 1943 and it became a popular song, charting as high as #20.
It’s possible that Norman Rockwell heard this song before painting his famous picture of “Rosie the Riveter.” His painting was used to encourage women to step up and perform the jobs left behind by the men.
J. Howard Miller also painted a famous picture of “Rosie the Riveter” which was used by the Westinghouse Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee to motivate employees to continue working hard for the war effort.
But being the inspiration for countless women during and after the war was just the beginning for Walter, nicknamed “Roz” by her friends.
Walter was one of the principal benefactors for PBS. She was the largest individual supporter of WNET in New York. With her support, the station financed 67 shows or series beginning in 1978.
Walter had an affinity for public television because she had turned down the opportunity to go to college during the war. She found that the programming on public television helped to fill in the education she had missed out on.
According to Allison Fox, who is WNET’s senior director for major gifts, Walter felt that public media was the best way to keep the public informed – a cause that Walter was passionate about.
Walter was married twice. Her second husband was Henry Walter, Jr., president and chairman of International Flavors and Fragrances which provides scents and flavorings for 38,000 products. It was once the largest company in its field.
The Walters were generous supporters of the American Museum of Natural History, Long Island University, the Pierpont Morgan Library, the college scholarship program of the US Tennia Association, and the North Shore Wildlife Sanctuary.
Some of those gifts were made through what is now known as the Rosalind P. Walter Foundation.
In addition to their financial support, the Walters often served as trustees or directors of the organizations they donated to.