One of the keys to the Allied victory in World War II was America’s prodigious production of war materiel. That, in turn, was due to the 6 million women who entered the work force to fill the jobs vacated by men called into the service.
The symbol of this work force transformation was Rosie the Riveter, featured in an iconic poster that showed Rosie in work clothes, hair caught up in a bandana, flexing an impressive bicep under the slogan, “We can do it.” And women did.
Rosie the Riveter became a generic term for female wartime workers, especially those in the heavy industries.
Indeed, there was a real Rosie: Rose Will Monroe, who moved from Kentucky to Michigan to find work. And she did, in Ford Motor Co.’s Willow Run bomber plant, near Detroit. It turned out B-24 Liberator bombers — nearly 9,000 of them by war’s end, often at the rate of one an hour.
As did so many real-life Rosies, she lost her job at the end of the war as the men began returning home. She moved to Indiana, and later in life started her own home-building business. She died in 1997 at age 77.
The Willow Run factory resumed making cars and did so until it closed in 2010. It now sits derelict, slated for demolition.
However, an organization called “Save the Willow Run Bomber Plant” aims to raise $8 million to maintain part of the sprawling complex as an aviation museum and memorial to all the Rosie the Riveters.
It is a worthwhile endeavor. Women’s invaluable contributions to the war effort should not go unremarked. It’s a way of saying thank you to a group of patriots fast receding in our history.
Dale McFeatters writes for the Scripps Howard News Service.