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We Can Do It!: Preserving Michigan's Rosie the Riveter Legacy

Washington, DC, August 17, 2015

Rosie the Riveter is an important symbol for me and her picture hangs in all three of my offices. The Rosie’s role in history empowered young girls and redefined for all of us the role of women in the workplace. Rosie the Riveter is also commonly used as a symbol of women's economic power. According to the Encyclopedia of American Economic History, Rosie the Riveter inspired a social movement that increased the number of working American women from 12 million to 20 million by 1944, a 57% increase from 1940.

Rosie the Riveter was a real woman, Rose Will Monroe, who worked as a riveter at the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan building B-24 bombers for the U.S. Airforce. Monroe was asked to star in a promotional film about the war effort at home. Another Michigan woman, factory worker Geraldine Hoff Doyle, who was 17 at the time, was depicted in the famous poster we have all come to know. "Rosie" went on to become perhaps the most widely recognized icon of that era. Willow Run is in the heart of Michigan's 12th Congressional District and is an important part of our history, which needs to be remembered, taught and preserved.

Last year, a group of fabulous women in Ypsilanti organized an effort to set the Guinness World Record for the most Rosies gathered in the same place since WWII. They were successful, assembling 776 Rosies at the Willow Run Airport. Saturday, a group in California decided to try to beat the number and set a new record, which it appears they did, though they are still awaiting authentication

Well, we are organizing to win the record back in Michigan. 

It's our history. Why does it matter? Why is the Willow Run Bomber Plant so Important?

At the peak of its production during World War II, the Willow Run Plant employed 42,000 workers, as much as one third of whom were pioneering women industrial workers, collectively nicknamed “Rosie the Riveter.” Willow Run produced more aircraft every month on its mile-long assembly line than Imperial Japan did in a year, earning it, and the area surrounding southeast Michigan, worldwide fame as the center of America’s “Arsenal of Democracy.” The nationwide American “Production Miracle,” of which Willow Run was the finest and most ambitious example, was a critical factor in ending the deadliest conflict in history.

We need to preserve our history and pass it on to future generations. We all are supporting the efforts of those working to save the plant and tell the story. To quote the Yankee Air Museum team: 

"If these walls could talk…they’d tell a story. Of American know-how. Of social change. Of a country that pulled together, to get a tough job done. It’s a story to inspire future generations. Let’s tell it at Willow Run!"

So stay tuned...we have a fabulous group getting organized...original Rosies still caring, involved and telling their stories, the Yankee Air Museum team, community members, labor, business and many more. We will get the date and place this week... and use it to bring in younger generations, share with young people and have a community gathering that celebrates history, keeps the record here in Michigan and reminds us all of how great this state is and of all we represent! We need everyone...D2

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