Mary Doyle Keefe

Mary Doyle Keefe. Courtesy of Tia Ann Chapman and
Mary Doyle Keefe. Courtesy of Tia Ann Chapman and

Time Period

1940 to Today

Subject Categories

Arts

Notable Facts

Posed for Norman Rockwell's painting, 'Rosie the Riveter,' which appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943.

Personal Information

Primary Residence

Arlington

Ethnicity

Caucasian

Historical Significance

Mary Doyle Keefe posed for Norman Rockwell's painting, "Rosie the Riveter," which appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943.

Keefe lived with her family in Arlington, Vermont and worked as a telephone operator. Norman Rockwell came to pay his telephone bill one day and asked Keefe if she would sit for a picture. She was photographed by Gene Pelham and then Norman Rockwell cut out what he wanted from the photos. Keefe sat for him twice and was paid $10 for her work. On the first day, she wore a white blouse beneath her overalls and a pair of saddle shoes. Rockwell wanted something different though, so she posed again with a blue blouse and penny loafers.

The painting of Keefe first appeared on May 29, 1943 on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. It was also used to promote the purchase of war bonds. Known as "Rosie the Riveter," the painting represented the "can-do attitude of American women whose work helped win the war. It is arguably among the most recognizable images of World War II and transformed Keefe from a small-town switchboard operator into an American icon." The painting displays Keefe with a muscular physique, which shocked her the first time she saw it. Rockwell later apologized to Keefe for enlarging her so substantially.

After becoming famous as Rosie the Riveter, Keefe attended college, became a dental hygienist, got married and had four children. "Rosie the Riveter" was auctioned off by Sothebys in 2002 for $4.9 million; the highest ever paid at auction for a Rockwell painting.

Occupations

  • Telephone operator
  • Dental hygienist

Education

  • College graduate

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • "'Rosie the Riveter' model going strong at 85." Waldman, Loretta. The Hartford Courant. November 18, 2007. Link

  • Frothingham, Stephen. "Rockwell's 'Rosie' sets record at auction." The Associated Press, May 23, 2002. Link

  • Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter Painting Auctioned Link

Additional Images

Rosie the Riveter
Rosie the Riveter