Mary Doyle Keefe of Simsbury, Conn., has died. She was 92.
She was the model for Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover of Rosie the Riveter, which called the nation’s attention to the fact women were in the nation’s factories winning World War II.
She was a 19-year-old phone operator in Arlington, Vermont — Rockwell’s home town — when the artist called asking for a favor. When posing — it took about two hours — she really did hold the ham sandwich and she really did hold the riveting gun.
She also weighed 110 pounds and didn’t have the guns — the biceps — that Rockwell gave her.
“He called me and apologized for making me so large,” she said in a 1992 interview.
“When she would come in here she really was in some ways treated like royalty,” Jeremy Clowe tells WAMC Radio. “People were absolutely awestruck to see this figure from the canvas come to life.”
One of her sons lives in Woodbury (Obituary)
The painting itself was auctioned off about a dozen years ago. It’s now in a museum of American art in Arkansas.