By Gretchen Sawatzki
Rosie the Riveter for a Day
|Me and Mindy the Riveter|
Going into the event I didn't know what to expect. Knowing my luck I figured that I would be one of about 25 women who dressed up and came out on a 30-degree day. To my delight that wasn't the case. I arrived at Hangar 1 around 1:30 pm and took my place in line behind a few dozen Rosies. As we stood there freezing waiting for the hangar doors to open a steady flow of Rosies trickled into line. Having waited nearly 30 minutes to enter the hangar, the doors opened at 2:00 pm and the Rosies moved inward.
|The Blob of Rosies|
The Rosie I sat next to, was actually a Mindy. An army veteran herself, and near Lucille Ball look-a-like, she donned a button of a family member who worked at the bomber plant. Like many of the women I spoke to their connection to the plant ran deep. One woman I chatted with while waiting in line for the bathroom told me that her mother, mother-in-law, and father-in-law all worked at the plant. Their stories were truly inspiring and really helped passed the time. And as the clock ticked on I noticed all of the Rosies. There were short ones, tall ones, babies, kids, adults...and there they were, the original Rosies. The world record attempt had brought all types of women out, including a few of my historic heroines.
|The Original Rosies take their place in the front.|
A Brief History of the Willow Run Bomber Plant and Rosie the Riveter
During World War II the American government called on women to fill the work roles left open by enlisted men leaving for the war. This mass propaganda campaign for women in the workforce resulted in nearly 6,000,000 women entering the workforce, half of which entered jobs in war defense assembling all types of products in support of the war effort. And no place in the nation better embodied this spirit, than Detroit, Michigan. With expertise in assembly production, the Detroit area was a natural fit for vehicle and aviation manufacturing - so much so that Detroit and its surrounding communities became known as the Arsenal of Democracy.
In 1943, Norman Rockwell depicted a female riveter on her lunch break that made the cover of the May 29th issue of the Saturday Evening Post. His iconic image gave the name "Rosie" to female factory workers everywhere, but Rockwell's painting wasn't the only iconic Rosie. One year prior to Rockwell's Rosie, the Westinghouse Power Company produced a poster featuring a woman with a red and white polka dot bandana flexing her muscle. Today, this is widely recognized as "Rosie the Riveter". But one lucky Willow Run riveter, Rose Will Monroe who worked on B-24 and B-49 bombers at the plant was featured in an ad promoting the purchase of war bonds. It is Rose Will Monroe who is remembered at Willow Run and the "Rosies" like her who sacrificed on the homefront.