Norman Rockwell’s ‘Rosie The Riveter’ Dies, Mary Doyle Keefe Was 92

Mary Doyle Keefe, the model for Norman Rockwell’s Rosie The Riveter painting, which was used to help inspire American women to work on U.S. soil throughout World War II, has died at the age of 92.

Mary Ellen Keefe, Mary Doyle’s daughter, confirmed that her mother died after a brief illness in Simsbury, Connecticut, on Tuesday.

Keefe, who grew up in Arlington, Vermont, which is where she first met Rockwell, posed for the image when she was just 19 years old. At the time of the painting, she was working as a telephone operator. However she became immortalized when the painting featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post‘s May 29, 1943, edition.

Rockwell exaggerated Keefe’s figure in order to get the picture and painting that he wanted. Rockwell did this so that his Rosie The Riveter was depicted as strong. Keefe was very petite, and Rockwell decided to exacerbate her arms and shoulders to make them very large and broad.

The image shows Keefe’s Rosie wearing work overalls while also holding onto a rivet gun as she stands on a copy of Mein Kampf, the autobiographical manifesto that Adolf Hitler wrote and was published in 1925, which outlined his plans for Nazi Germany. The entire background of the picture is an American flag waving.

Keefe was paid $5 on the two occasions that she posed for Rockwell and the painter’s photographer, Gene Pelham.

Back in 2002, Keefe discussed the working conditions under which the painting was constructed with the Associated Press, via ABC News.

“You sit there and he takes all these pictures,” Keefe explained. “They called me again to come back because he wanted me in a blue shirt and asked if I could wear penny loafers.”

Rockwell later sent Keefe a letter apologizing for making her so large in the image, which is currently at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, and in fact called her the most beautiful woman that he’s ever seen.

Norman Rockwell’s Rosie The Riveter painting came over a year after Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller had created a series of posters for the war effort for the Westinghouse Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee in order to try and raise bonds.

“Rosie the Riveter”. We Can Do It!. J. Howard Miller. 1943.

— Maritza Rojas (@mary_paisa) May 28, 2013

[Image via Philly]