Norman Rockwell’s Image of Rosie the Riveter

Norman Rockwell’s image of “Rosie the Riveter” received mass distribution on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on Memorial Day, May 29, 1943. Rockwell’s illustration features a brawny woman taking her lunch break with a rivet gun on her lap and beneath her penny loafer a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf. Her lunch box reads “Rosie”; viewers quickly recognized that to be “Rosie the Riveter” from the familiar song. Rockwell, America’s best-known popular illustrator of the day, based the pose of his ‘Rosie’ on that of Michelangelo’s 1509 painting Prophet Isaiah from the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Rosie is holding a ham sandwich in her left hand, and her blue overalls are adorned with badges and buttons: a Red Cross blood donor button, a white “V for Victory” button, a Blue Star Mothers pin, an Army-Navy E Service production award pin, two bronze civilian service awards, and her personal identity badge. Rockwell’s model was a Vermont resident, 19-year-old Mary Doyle, who was a telephone operator near where Rockwell lived, not a riveter. Rockwell painted his “Rosie” as a larger woman than his model, and he later phoned to apologize. In a post interview, Mary explained that she was actually holding a sandwich while posing for the poster and that the rivet-gun she was holding was fake, she never saw Hitler’s copy of Mein Kampf, and she did have a white handkerchief in her pocket like the picture depicts.The Post’s cover image proved hugely popular, and the magazine loaned it to the United States Department of the Treasury for the duration of the war, for use in war bond drives. Learn more about our mission of restoring the Stearman and dedicating it to all WWII Rosie the Riveters, click HERE.

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