Rosie the Riveter is an iconic image of World War II. It is a symbol of women toiling on assembly lines all over our country. These strong women stepped up to fill the void left by the brave men fighting abroad to safeguard our freedom. Many Rosies had husbands, brothers, and sons fighting on the front lines.
The concept of Rosie the Riveter came from a hit song written in 1942 about the tireless women working on the assembly lines. Images of women welders and riveters were widespread and were used to encourage women to wartime service in factories. Rosie the Riveter was most closely associated with Rose Monroe who moved to Michigan from Kentucky. She worked at the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti. The bomber plant was constructed in 1941 by Ford Motor Company for the mass production of the B-24 bomber. Rose was chosen to star in a promotional film about the war effort at home.
Until I attended a program on Rosie the Riveter, I was unaware of the scope of the Rosie’s contribution to the war effort. These amazing women were not only riveters but sanders, welders, parachute folders and shipyard workers. Working outside the home, many for the first time, contributed financially to the household. Many of these women banded together to share chores such as cooking, cleaning, and helping with child-rearing. These women developed a strong sense of identity as skilled, independent workers. They expressed a profound feeling of personal accomplishment and a newfound sense of self-worth.
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When the war ended and the men came home, the women were laid off from the factory jobs. Many fought to remain in these jobs not wanting to return to work in the home, though few succeeded.
It was not just Michigan women who worked at Willow Run, thousands came from the south to find work in factories in the north. Rosies came from diverse backgrounds as well. Some were farmers, secretaries, housewives, and school teachers, all united for the war effort. Women of all ethnicities worked side by side. High School graduates worked alongside 70-year-olds.
One local Rosie is Betty Trumble of Marysville. As a young girl on the family farm in Smiths Creek, Betty and her sister grew vegetables in their garden that was then donated to the war effort.
Another Rosie was my late mother-in-law, Pat Sass of St. Clair. Pat worked in the office at the Chrysler plant in Marysville during the war.
The American Rosie the Riveter Association has chapters all over the country. Michigan’s Willow Run Chapter is located at Willow Run Airport. There is an honor wall that recognizes the contributions of local female home-front workers of World War II. Their goal is not only to honor these women but to promote patriotism and keep the Rosie legacy alive for future generations.