News Column

'Rosie the Riveter' Factory Under Threat

August 2, 2013

Aug. 01--DETROIT, Michdetroit -- A group in this Michigan city is trying to save some of a factory where a Pulaski County woman, dubbed Rosie the Riveter, helped build World War II-era bombers and became an icon of American female empowerment.

Rose Will Monroe was one of the 40,000 who toiled at the 332-acre Ford Motor Co. facility that churned out nearly 9,000 B-24 Liberator bombers during the war.

Monroe, who moved to Michigan from her native Kentucky during the war, starred as herself in Rosie the Riverter, and the Rosie character became one of the best-known figures of the era as well as an enduring symbol of female empowerment.

The Detroit group has been given a two-month extension in which to raise enough money to save some of the Detroit-area factory where Rosie the Riveter and her female counterparts worked.

The trust set up to oversee properties owned by a pre-bankruptcy General Motors announced Wednesday it was extending until Oct. 1 the deadline for fundraisers to bring in the cash needed to preserve a portion of the former Willow Run Bomber Plant.

The Save the Bomber Plant campaign has raised $4.5 million of the $8 million it would cost to separate and preserve 175,000 square feet of the Ypsilanti Township plant and convert it into a new, expanded home for the nearby Yankee Air Museum.

The original deadline to raise the remaining $3.5 million had been Thursday, but the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust tacked on 60 days, saying in a statement the campaign's "success and momentum" warranted the extension.

Dennis Norton, the Yankee Air Museum's founder, said he and his fellow fundraisers were excited to be given the chance to finish what they started.

"The RACER Trust has been extremely supportive of Yankee Air Museum and this initiative," he said. "We're grateful to be able to continue working toward our goal of preserving a portion of the former bomber plant to tell the Arsenal of Democracy story and how Americans, men and women of all races, came together to not just build aircraft needed to win World War II, but to change the country forever."

Indeed, while women performed what had been male-dominated roles in plants all over the country during the war, it was Rose Will Monroe, born in Pulaski County in 1920, who caught the eye of Hollywood producers casting a "riveter" for a government film about the war effort at home.

The song "Rosie the Riveter" was popular at the time, and Monroe happened to best fit the description of the worker depicted in the song:

All the day long,

Whether rain or shine

She's part of the assembly line.

She's making history,

Working for victory

Rosie the Riveter.

Norman Rockwell depicted Monroe for the Saturday Evening Post and she became famous as a war bond promoter.

Rosie went on to become perhaps the most widely recognized icon of that era. Films and posters were used to encourage women to go to work in support of the war effort. According to Encyclopedia of American Economic History, "Rosie the Riveter" inspired a social movement that increased the number of working American women to 20 million by 1944.

Monroe achieved her dream of piloting a plane when she was in her 50s and her love of flying resulted in an accident that contributed to her death 19 years later.

If the Save the Bomber Plant Campaign is successful, the Yankee Air Museum will move from its current location on the east side of Willow Run Airport to the former bomber plant, which is adjacent to the airport's western boundary.

All of the museum's collections and exhibits, including aircraft, would then be reunited at a single site, which was the end of the World War II-era assembly line where planes were completed and exited the plant for delivery to the government.

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(c)2013 the Commonwealth Journal (Somerset, Ky.)

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Source: Copyright Commonwealth Journal (Somerset, KY) 2013


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