Mary Doyle Keefe, the model who inspired Norman Rockwell’s infamous “Rosie the Riveter,” died on Tuesday, April 21, at the age of 92.

RIP Mary Doyle Keefe

Over the years, Keefe has become somewhat of a cultural icon, as her likeness “Rosie the Riveter” by Norman Rockwell became symbolic in the war efforts of the 1940s. The image was created during World War II, as a way to attract women to join the workforce while all the men were serving in WWII.

Keefe was 19 and working as a telephone operator when she was asked to model for Rockwell in 1943. Rockwell and Keefe were neighbors in Arlington, Vt., and she accepted his offer of $10 to model for the patriotic portrait. Keefe posed for a photographer in a blue shirt and loafers – Rockwell often painted from photos, according to Keefe.

“He liked to paint from photos, so his photographer took pictures of me, just posing me different ways and telling me to look this way or that. I don’t remember the photographer telling me to have any kind of attitude on my face, but I’m 90 and don’t remember,” Keefe revealed in a 2012 interview.


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Keefe said that she didn’t truly resemble the “Rosie the Riveter” Rockwell ended up with, noting that Rosie’s body was much more muscular, and Keefe never imagined her likeness would be used to sell war bonds. “I didn’t think much about it, and I didn’t really see myself as some epitome of the modern woman. There was a war on, and you did what you could…. I didn’t really make anything of it and didn’t really see it or realize what would happen to that picture until it came out,” Keefe said.

Keefe is survived by four children, William J Keefe, Barbara K Boska, Robert J Keefe and Mary Ellen Keefe, and eleven grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

“Mary will be remembered as a loving, patient and generous wife, mother and grandmother. Her personal interests include maintaining a daily interest in sporting teams, especially the Red Sox, Celtics and UConn Women’s Basketball teams, as well as bridge, golf, cooking and baking for her family and friends, and watching with great delight as her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren grew and prospered,” reads her obituary.

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