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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Whole Lotta' Rosie

At a glance, or even a second glance, would you recognize this woman?

This is Mary Doyle Keefe, and she was Norman Rockwell's model as "Rosie the Riveter", which appeared on the cover of POST magazine on May 29, 1943.  Keefe was 19 years old when she posed for his painting and worked as a telephone operator.  The magazine cover itself was the symbol for the millions of women who went to work in place of the men who became soldiers during World War II, and emphasized the fact that women were capable employees. One should take note that women also earned approximately 65 percent less income as the men who previously dominated these roles.

The original image, painted by Rockwell, shows a muscular woman wearing overalls, goggles and pins of honor on her lapel. She is also wearing a leather wrist band and her sleeves are rolled-up.  In her lap is a riveting tool, and she is eating a sandwich.  The word  "Rosie" is inscribed on her lunch pail.  Under her foot she is stepping on "Mein Kampf", a book written by Adolph Hitler.

Once this magazine issue hit the newsstands, stories from all over the country began to appear in newspapers about "real life" Rosies, and our Government began a campaign called "Women in War Jobs" to encourage women to leave their homes and enter the American workforce.  The campaign was a smashing success, and to this day is known as the most successful advertising campaign in U.S. history.

Today there is a common misconception that the "Rosie" depicted above, is the original, but now you know that is not the case.  This 1942 poster was created by the artist J. Howard Miller who was employed by the Westinghouse Company's War Production Coordinating Committee, In Pittsburgh.   The "We Can Do It!" poster was from a series, and became the most popular.  It was never given the title "Rosie the Riveter".

Prior to the Rosie phenomenon, there was actually a song called "Rosie the Riveter", which was most likely fueled inspiration for Norman Rockwell to use the name Rosie on her lunch pail in the painting.  Here is the original song, and the lyrics are below:

Mary Doyle Keefe,  was from Arlington, Vermont.  In April of 2015, she died at the age of 92, at the McLean Village Community in Simsbury, Connecticut.


While other girls attend their fav’rite
cocktail bar
Sipping Martinis, munching caviar
There’s a girl who’s really putting 
them to shame
Rosie is her name

All the day long whether rain or shine
She’s a part of the assembly line
She’s making history, 
working for victory
Rosie the Riveter
Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage
Sitting up there on the fuselage
That little frail can do more than a 
male will do
Rosie the Riveter

Rosie’s got a boyfriend, Charlie
Charlie, he’s a Marine
Rosie is protecting Charlie
Working overtime on the 
riveting machine
When they gave her a production “E”
She was as proud as a girl could be
There’s something true about
Red, white, and blue about
Rosie the Riveter

Everyone stops to admire the scene
Rosie at work on the B-Nineteen
She’s never twittery, nervous or jittery
Rosie the Riveter
What if she’s smeared full of
oil and grease
Doing her bit for the old Lendlease
She keeps the gang around
They love to hang around
Rosie the Riveter

Rosie buys a lot of war bonds
That girl really has sense
Wishes she could purchase 
more bonds
Putting all her cash into national
Senator Jones who is “in the know”
Shouted these words on the radio
Berlin will hear about
Moscow will cheer about
Rosie the Riveter!

Paramount Music Corporation, NY, 1942

Photo credits:  All images found on Googe Images