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Apr 24, 2015 4:59 PM

Former Nashua resident and face of 'Rosie the Riveter' passes away


Mary Doyle Keefe, once a Nashua resident and face of Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter poster, passed away Tuesday at 92.

The propaganda that inspired a generation of women to partake in the war effort during the 1940s has remained an iconic image of patriotism. According to Northeast Public Radio, Keefe was just 19 years old when she first visited Rockwell’s studio in Arlington, Vt. Soon after, the young telephone operator’s image would be hung up in hundreds of factories to symbolize the millions of women supporting military efforts.

Rockwell depicted Keefe in front of an American flag, wearing work overalls and eating a sandwich. On her lap is a rivet gun and her feet rest on a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf.” According to the book World War II and the Postwar Years in America, the name Rosie was inspired by female airplane worker, Rosalind Walter. Rockwell’s painting of Keefe made the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in May 1943.

After posing for Rockwell, Keefe graduated from Temple University with a dental hygiene degree. She married her husband in 1949 and later moved to Nashua where they raised their four children. Keefe passed away in Simsbury, Connecticut where she had lived most of the past decade.

The Norman Rockwell Museum located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts commemorated Keefe on the museum’s Facebook page.

According to the Nashua Patch, The painting is currently part of the permanent collect at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Keefe’s compensation for the poster was only $10 but her image has lived on to serve an unmatched message of war support, female empowerment and independence.


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