Mary Doyle Keefe, Who Modeled for Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter”, Dies at 92

From The New York Post.

Obit Rockwell Model

……When Norman Rockwell asked Mary Doyle Keefe to model for the painting that would be the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943, and come to symbolize women’s participation in the war effort, Keefe was a 19-year-old phone operator who was paid $5 for each of two sittings, which took place in Arlington, Vt.

The “Rosie the Riveter” painting (not to be confused with the “We Can Do It!” war bonds poster from the same time period, showing a woman flexing her muscles) would become etched in our national memory as a symbol of female empowerment.

So what did Mary Doyle Keefe think about becoming a symbol for a nation?

With that classic Greatest Generation flair for self-effacement and understatement, she didn’t make too big a deal of it.

“I didn’t really see myself as some epitome of the modern woman,” she told the Hartford Courant in 2012. “There was a war on, and you did what you could . . . I was proud that it helped the effort and that the Rosie poster went around the country to help sell war bonds.”

Keefe died this week at her home in Simsbury, Conn., at the age of 92, leaving behind four children, 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. (Her husband of 55 years, Robert J. Keefe, died in 2003.)

……“I did have to make you into sort of a giant,” Rockwell was said to have written to Keefe in a letter 24 years after she posed for him. “I really thought you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen,” he said, referring to the fact that he dramatically embellished the petite woman’s arms and shoulders in the painting.

It’s impossible not to be moved by his painting, inspired by Michelangelo’s rendering of the prophet Isaiah in the Sistine Chapel, or at pictures of women working in the factories during World War II, assembling planes, welding, using blowtorches and putting together tanks.

……Then the war ended, and most of the women left the factories to go home and, in many cases, raise families, where they were doing something worthwhile — where they were needed. They were raising the generation of Baby Boomers, many of them daughters who would one day march into work and never look back.

As these ladies of the Greatest Generation leave us, it’s hard not to see them as giants. Giants who were women.

HOOAH! RIP, Ms. Keefe.


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