A woman whose image is burned into American history has passed away. Greta Friedman, of the iconic V-J Day kiss photograph, has died at age 92, according to CNN. Odds are you know the picture in question without having to look it up, because it's undoubtedly one of the most famous photos in American history — the one with the sailor and nurse smooching in New York City's Times Square, taken moments after the announcement of Japan's surrender finally brought an end to World War II.
In 2012, Friedman described the experience as one of surprise, as CBS News detailed — she told correspondent Michelle Miller that she didn't see the man coming — a young sailor later identified as George Mendonsa — and that "before I know it I was in this vice grip." She was just 21 at the time, a dental assistant who happened to be in Times Square at the moment of the dramatic announcement.
Here's how Friedman detailed the scene, in a 2005 interview with the Veteran's History Project:
Suddenly, I was grabbed by a sailor. It wasn't that much of a kiss. It was more of a jubilant act that he didn't have to go back. I found out later he was so happy that he didn't have to go back to the Pacific where they had already been through the war. The reason he grabbed somebody dressed like a nurse, that he felt so very grateful to the nurses who took care of the wounded. I had to go back to the office, and I told my bosses what I had seen. They said to cancel all the appointments, we're closing the office. They left, and so I cancelled all the appointments and went home.
As Andy Martino illuminatingly detailed for the New York Daily News, Friedman's son Joshua acknowledged that his mother saw something problematic in the moment, from a feminist perspective — namely, that women shouldn't have to be worry about being nonconsentually grabbed that way on the street. However, Joshua also said that his mother didn't take issue with Mendonsa's outburst.
My mom always had an appreciation for a feminist viewpoint, and understood the premise that you don't have a right to be intimate with a stranger on the street. [But] she didn't assign any bad motives to George in that circumstance, that situation, that time.
According to her son, Friedman passed away at an assisted living facility in Virginia, and she had fallen ill in recent years. The Daily News reported that Mendonsa, however, is still alive at age 93, described as "a retired fisherman living in Rhode Island."