By Nicholas Perugini, Trending Writer
The Second World War was the bloodiest conflict that the Earth had ever seen. It not only affected the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific, but it also changed the landscape of the Homefront as well. When Japan declared war on the United States on December 7th, 1941, the nation changed overnight. Men rallied to the recruitment centers. Children collected scrap for the war effort. The women assembled at the factories. From the shipping yards in Mobile, Alabama to the Brass factories in Waterbury, Connecticut, women took on the roles that men once held. They made the needed supplies to fuel the growing war effort. An icon appeared from the factories that still inspires millions of women today, Rosie the Riveter.
Perhaps the most iconic image from the era, Rosie the Riveter still provides inspiration to women that they can be strong and accomplish anything. I am not talking about the classic “We Can Do It” poster, however. There were multiple “Rosies” from the era. I am talking about Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post picture of Rosie the Riveter. Modeled after Mary Doyle Keefe, this Rosie helped draw women to the factories. She became a symbol of woman in the workforce: covered in soot, decorated with small pins such as the Red Cross blood donor button on her blue work suit, while eating a ham sandwich in one hand and cradling a heavy riveting gun on her lap. Keefe did not know that the image modeled after her likeness would have such a large impact for the war. Shortly after the image was published, the U.S. government capitalized on it and used it to sell war bonds. Keefe’s image helped raise the moral of the American people during one its most stressful times. It has helped symbolize the strength of women and that in tough times anyone can be a hero.
On April 21, 2015 Keefe died at the age of 92, but her image still lives on. Her story is one of many during the war, an unexpected individual becoming part of something larger than themselves. Keefe worked as a telephone operator in a small town in Vermont. She had never touched a rivet gun in her life, she once confessed in a later interview. Mary Doyle Keefe is a reminder of a time of great turmoil in the United States, and how heroes like her can inspire millions. She will be missed.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 26th print edition.
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