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Rosie the Riveter and Mary Doyle Keefe

For my book, Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II, I interviewed Mary Doyle (later Keefe), the model for Norman Rockwell’s cover, “Rosie,” for Saturday Evening Post.  After we talked Mary sent me a copy of an article, “Painting of Rosie, a Riveter, Starts Tempest in Teapot,”  in the local newspaper, The Banner that I’ve transcribed below, along with a photograph of her and Norman Rockwell with the cover.

Painting of Rosie, a Riveter, Starts Tempest in Teapot

Norman Rockwell of Arlington, veteran Saturday Evening Post cover artist, has another cover in this week’s issue and it hits the rivet right on the head. There’s nothing new in that, since all his covers have been knockouts. But this one came very near causing the Curtis Publishing Company, a lot of trouble.

The cover, posed for by Miss Mary Doyle, Arlington’s attractive telephone operator, shows a husky gal, perched on a timber with a riveting gun lying on her lap, one arm over her lunch box, and a ham sandwich (1) point per pound held in a strictly feminine manner between carmine-tipped fingers.

Beneath one moccasined foot is a smudged copy of “Mein Kampf”, pagan bible of the Hitler regime. Across her bosom is a row of buttons, including a service button, a red cross emblem, a “V” button, a “E” insignia, and a few others.

Feminine Touch

From the pocket of her soiled blue dungarees protrudes a lace-edged handkerchief, and a gold trimmed white compact, in pleasing contrast to the double—buckle leather wrist strap.

Lettered in white paint across the top of her lunch box is the name “ROSIE”, and thereby hangs a tale.

News dealers from coast to coast, including Evans of Main street, received “blow-ups” of the Rockwell cover last week. A “blowup” is an enlargement in colors of a cover picture. It is tacked up to tip off news stand customers of what to expect in the coming Post issue. But this one had a title over it, to wit: “Rosie the Riveter.”

This, it is said, is the name of a new and popular war song. The name “Rosie” on the lunch box isn’t copy-righted, but presumably the title of the song is.

Hurry Call

A couple of days ago Evans and a hundred thousand other news dealers received urgent instructions from the Curtis Publishing Co. to ditch the “blow-up”, and to sign a solemn statement certifying that they had done so, presumably to indicate the good faith of the company and adduce proof that there had been no intention on their part to plaglarize. The Curtis Co. is too smart for that, too long established and certainly knows better, but someone in their promotion department, it is to be supposed, didn’t know about “Rosie.”

Norman Rockwell, when interviewed by The Banner this noon said that “this is the first I’ve heard of it.” Of course he had nothing to do with the promotion anyway, and the use of the word Rosie was quite safe.

She’s Really Beautiful

“It’s Miss Doyle, our telephone operator, who should sue me,” laughed Rockwell, or at least grinned, judging from the sound of his voice over the telephone. “She is really a beautiful girl, but since I wanted to portray a girl of husky proportions, I had to distort the picture.

“I made a mistake in detail that people will be calling me down for,” he concluded. “The cover shows ‘Rosie’ with goggles and an isinglass protective shield. I don’t think riveters use both. It was silly of me.”

The reporter hadn’t noticed that slip, but a few thousand riveters who read the Post regularly undoubtedly will.

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