In Memoriam: Mary Doyle Keefe.

The model for Norman Rockwell’s 1943 Rosie the Riveter cover painting for the century-spanning publication The Saturday Evening has passed away.  Mary Doyle Keefe was 92.


A seminal figure in both World War II propaganda art and the feminist movement, different versions of Rosie have cropped-up in various forms since the 1940s, with one of the most widely-perceived-as-Rosie images created by an illustrator by the name of J. Howard Miller. That would be the ‘We Can Do It’ woman, who is neat, tidy and flexing an arm as she stares directly at the viewer with a no-nonsense expression.

J. Howard Miller's iconic work incentive poster, c. 1942.
J. Howard Miller’s iconic work incentive poster for Westinghouse, c. 1942. Not really Rosie. Sorry, everyone!

Rockwell’s equally (more so, in some respects) impressive, painterly version of Rosie shows a robust, red-headed woman smudged with soot and enjoying a sandwich, with her rivet gun casually resting in her lap.

Rockwell's 1943 Memorial Day cover for The Saturday Evening Post.
Rockwell’s 1943 Memorial Day cover for The Saturday Evening Post. Source.

Various sources have reported that Keefe, who was 19 and paid a sum of  $10 for her two modeling sessions, didn’t exactly think the final product much resembled her, save for the face and hair color, as she was rather petite. Keefe did, however, have much to be proud of, with the image’s impact at the time and for years to come.

While there is some nebulousness surrounding the precise origins of Rosie the Riveter, it goes without saying that women played a large and, at times, highly visible part in shaping the future of the world at a critical time.


Hennessey, Maureen Hart and Knutson, Anne. Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People. High Museum of Art, 2000. Print.

Rosie the Riveter: Real Women Workers in World War II. Harvey, Sheridan. The Library of Congress. Accessed April 23rd, 2015.

The Model for Norman Rockwell’s ‘Rosie the Riveter’ dies at 92. CNN. Accessed April 23rd, 2015.


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