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Rosie the Riveter Image

Reading the obituary for Geraldine Hoff Doyle, which appeared in various news sources today, I was reminded of my interactions with her in the mid-1990s as I was doing the research for my book, Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II. Somewhere in my files, I have materials she sent and the transcriptions of several phone calls in which she made her case that J. Howard Miller had used a photograph of her as the model for his iconic poster, “We Can Do It.”   However, the archivist and historian at Westinghouse, Charles A. Ruch, who had worked at the Pittsburgh plant  during World War II and who was friend of Miller, told me that Miller never worked from photographs; he only used live models for his posters, including “We Can Do It.”  Ruch’s first-hand perspective, plus we weren’t able to verify if the photograph ever appeared in newspapers/magazines that Howard could have/would have seen made me cautious of her claim, which is why in my Acknowledgments, p. 116, I wrote that her “photograph may have been used by J. Howard Miller.” Another model, however, who I was totally sure of was, Mary Doyle Keefe, the model for Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover, “Rosie.”  Mary (who was Mary Doyle at the time) was a nineteen-year-old, six-foot tall, red-haired telephone operator in Arlington, Vermont. During our conversations, she told me that neither she nor Norman Rockwell had ever met a riveter, man or woman (which is why, she explained, he made the mistake of portraying her with both goggles and an isinglass protective shield); he painted “Rosie” on her lunchbox because it went with “riveter”; he originally had Mary wear saddle shoes with brown socks, then had her switch to brown loafers with red socks; and he apologized to her after the cover appeared because he didn’t do justice to her beauty, which, she said, didn’t bother her at all.   I sent Mary two copies of Rosie the Riveter, one autographed from me to her and one for her to autograph from her to me, which she did and returned.

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