Mary Doyle Keefe, the model for Norman Rockwell’s iconic 1943 Rosie the Riveter painting that symbolized the millions of American women who went to work on the home front during the second world war, has died. She was 92.
Keefe died Tuesday in Simsbury, Connecticut, after a brief illness, said her daughter, Mary Ellen Keefe.
Keefe grew up in Arlington, Vermont, where she met Rockwell — who lived in West Arlington — and posed for his painting when she was a 19-year-old telephone operator. The painting was on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on 29 May 1943.
Although Keefe was petite, Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter had large arms, hands and shoulders. The painting shows the red-haired Rosie in blue-jean work overalls sitting down, with a sandwich in her left hand, her right arm atop a lunchbox with the name Rosie on it, a rivet gun on her lap and her feet resting on a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf. The entire background is a waving American flag.
Rockwell wanted Rosie to show strength and modeled her body on Michelangelo’s Isaiah, which is on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Keefe, who never riveted herself, was paid $5 for each of two mornings she posed for Rockwell and his photographer, Gene Pelham, whose pictures Rockwell used when he painted.