May 29, 1943 – Rosie the Riveter Makes Her First Appearance

On this day in history, Norman Rockwell’s picture of Rosie the Riveter appeared on the cover of the “Saturday Evening Post”.

“Rosie the Riveter” was a fictional character designed to symbolize the millions of women who filled in for men in America’s factories during World War II. Because the work force was so depleted from enlistments, the U.S. was eager to recruit women to these jobs, especially in essential industries such as munitions plants and shipyards.

1943-rosie-riv-satevepost-nw

The government thus mounted extensive campaigns to encourage women to join the work force.  In 1943, The “Saturday Evening Post” had a wide circulation and was deemed perfect for this effort. Norman Rockwell, cover artist for the “Saturday Evening Post,” asked Mary Doyle Keefe, then a 19-year-old phone operator in Arlington, Vermont, if she would pose for a painting. “Rosie the Riveter” became one of the best-known symbols of women’s assistance in the war effort.

Nearly 3 million women answered the call to serve in defense plants.

Throughout the rest of the American involvement in the war, Mary as “Rosie” and Rockwell toured the country raising money for the war bond drive. Mary was also a special guest at Sotheby’s when they auctioned the original “Rosie the Riveter” on May 23, 2002. The painting sold for $4.9 million to the Elliot Yeary Gallery in Colorado, and has since been sold to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas.

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