When someone says ‘iconic model’ our minds may jump to a Cindy Crawford, a Kate Moss even the recently retired Gisele Bündchen (who we reported on just recently.) But we do well to remember that not all women modeling do so for fashion and in some cases they’re pictures do reach iconic status for reasons well beyond showing off their latest Instagram vacation pic or a super-neat Twiggy-like style change. Such was the case with Mary Doyle Keefe.
Keefe’s is certainly not a quickly recognized name (nor would her everyday picture ever be), but in U.S. history she looms large for her modeling…and only for one moment in time actually. Mary Doyle Keefe posed for the “Rosie the Riveter” poster painted by the American painter/illustrator Norman Rockwell, in 1943.
Keefe was raised in Arlington, Vermont, Rockwell lived in West Arlington, and the two met when Keefe was working as an operator. Rockwell created what would become one of the best recognized Saturday Evening Post covers ever from pictures his friend/photographer Gene Pelham took of the then 19 year-old Keefe, who was paid $5 each of two mornings she sat for Pelham and Rockwell. The Rosie shot was at the time and still is recognized as one of the most important visual ‘rally cries’ for the World War 11, recognizing American woman flooding into the work place to help with the war effort.
In real life Keefe was a small lady, not the beefed-up, big-armed Rosie who appears in the painting sporting a rivet gun with her feet resting on a copy of “Mein Kampf.” Such is the case of artistic license.
Keefe, who graduated from Temple University, worked as a dental hygienist and was married for 55 years, died Tuesday at the age of 92. The “Rosie the Riveter” painting is part of the Art In A Days Work permanent collection at Arkansas Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.