The Woman Who Inspired a Nation as "Rosie the Riveter" Dies at Age 92

The Woman Who Inspired a Nation as "Rosie the Riveter" Dies at Age 92
Susan Watts/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
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Though Mary Doyle Keefe was just a teenager working as a telephone operator in 1943 when the legendary Norman Rockwell painted her, overnight she would become the face of working American women during World War II.

Keefe, who posed for Rockwell for what would become an iconic cover of The Saturday Evening Post and one of the most famous depictions of "Rosie the Riveter," died this week at the age of 92 in her home in Simsbury, Conn., the Associated Press reports.

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A photographer captured Keefe's likeness for Rockwell to use in his painting (shown above with Keefe in 2002)—after she had signed on for two days of modeling work for the newspaper, at $5 a day.

In the Rockwell painting, which appeared on the May 29, 1943, edition of The Post, a young woman a wears work overalls with a sandwich in hand and her muscular arms on top of a lunch box that has "Rosie" written on it. A huge rivet gun sits in her lap, her feet sit atop a copy of Adolf Hitler's manifesto, Mein Kampf, and the background is a waving American flag.

The painting came a year after the iconic J. Howard Miller "We Can Do It!" poster featuring a woman flexing her arm with a bright yellow backdrop (above). Though that image doesn't specifically depict Rosie the Riveter, it came to be associated with the cultural icon and even Keefe.

The Rockwell "Rosie the Riveter" painting is currently on display at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.

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