Farewell, Rosie.

rosieFolks, Ms. Mary Doyle Keefe, the model for Normal Rockwell’s iconic Rosie the Riveter poster, just passed away. Rosie is our icon for a key value of mediation — clients’s self-determination. Above is my marker-on-flipchart-paper facsimile of Rosie, which we trot out in our trainings.

Self-determination means that our clients cannot be coerced, judged, or manipulated into any agreements. It means that mediators are the humble servants to our clients — this is their process, their time, their conversation. We can’t impose our values, ideas, suggestions, or opinions on our wonderful clients. Our job is to provide a safe space for the conversation they need to have — and maybe we can be the catalyst that helps parties constructively move forward in the wake of conflict. Our mediators are heroic and all kinds of awesome, but we see our clients as the true heroes of our work — having the courage to have tough, sometimes heart-wrenching, conversations, in the presence of strangers.

Rosie’s slogan was We Can Do It — a call to action for American women in World War II to join the war effort by taking on factory jobs traditionally held by men. It implied a fierce spirit of empowerment in the face of gender stereotypes. We want our clients to feel similarly empowered in their mediations. (I’ve had more than one training participant point out the imperfections of my visual metaphor, but in all fairness, I’m not very good with metaphors and similes and such.)

Farewell, Mary, and thanks for the inspiration. And apologies to the family of Norman Rockwell for my less-than-flattering rendition.

Post-script: I just learned that my image above is not, in fact, an homage to the original Rosie as depicted by Normal Rockwell, but is rather based on a poster by J. Howard Miller. Huh.


Show your support for New York Peace Institute while having some laughs at our comedy benefit We Can Smirk It Out on May 5th!


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