Norman Rockwell’s 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, beneath her a copy of Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf and a lunch pail labelled “Rosie”. Rockwell based the pose to match Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling painting of the prophet Isaiah.
Rockwell’s model was a Vermont resident, then 19-year-old Mary Doyle Keefe 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. The Post’s cover image proved hugely popular, and the magazine loaned it to the U.S. Treasury Department for the duration of the war, for use in war bond drives.