Yes, we set a brand new World Record for the Most Rosie the Riveters here in Ypsilanti, Michigan on October 14, 2017… with 3,755 people dressed as Rosie the Riveter in attendance, including 57 original World War II Rosies!
The reason we gathered in Michigan to set a new record was to support the Yankee Air Museum’s effort to save, preserve, and renovate Rosie’s historic World War II-era factory: the Willow Run Bomber Plant! Once renovated, the Bomber Plant will become the Museum’s new home. But we still need your donations to make it happen!
The Willow Run Bomber Plant near Ypsilanti, Michigan was built in 1941, and produced over 8,600 B-24 Liberator bombers during WWII. It was the largest factory under one roof in the world at 3 million square feet in size, with two half-mile-long assembly lines. Willow Run employed 42,000 workers… and one third of them were women who were paid the same as the men! Willow Run was where Rose Will Monroe, the “original Rosie the Riveter” of WWII-era movie newsreel fame, worked. She was filmed by the government under the direction of A-list actor and producer Walter Pidgeon, and her face and name were familiar to WWII-era movie-goers as a personification of the popular “Rosie the Riveter” wartime propaganda character.
Rosie the Riveter, both then and now, represents ALL female wartime workers who stepped up to fill the many roles left behind by men who went to fight overseas. These women riveted, welded, kept the railroads running, conducted street cars, typed and filed, sewed parachutes, and even played pro baseball!
In a related story, Michigan could have an official state airplane under SB 0326 passed this week (2015) — one that lives on in history as a famous World War II airplane produced by women who served as the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter.
The B-24 Liberator was the most produced U.S. wartime aircraft and was used in each of the major theaters of World War II by each branch of U.S. armed forces as well as several Allied forces. Although the United States stopped using the planes shortly after the war ended, the model remains a famous and highly prominent feature in the country’s wartime history.
Around 40,000 employees built more than 8,600 of the planes in Michigan at the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti. The plant, operated by Ford Motor Company, is also famous for hiring many women to work in the factories and inspiring the “Rosie the Riveter” imagery — the official Rosie the Riveter, Rose Will Monroe, worked at the plant.
The legislative effort to honor the B-24 Liberator was headed by Sens. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton), who joked on the Senate floor this week that it’s one of the few times they’ve strongly agreed on an issue.
At the height of production during the war, Warren said a B-24 Liberator came off the assembly line every 55 minutes — by comparison, the two other U.S. plants were putting out one per day.
Warren said naming the B-24 Liberator the state airplane would help remind people of Michigan’s history as a manufacturing powerhouse, as well as honor the men and women who served the United States not only by flying the planes, but by churning them out.
“While many of our men were fighting in Europe, Italy, and Asia, the women picked up where they left off in the factories making sure they were full of workers building these bombers to help us win the war effort,” Warren said. “We are trying to make a statement about the importance of our history. We are trying to remind people about Michigan’s manufacturing might.”
Colbeck said formally preserving the legacy of the B-24 in Michigan at the state level would honor the World War II veterans and those who crafted the planes to contribute to the war effort.
“This is a prime example of how in Detroit we are known as the automotive manufacturing capital of the world, but back during World War II, we were known as the Arsenal of Democracy,” Colbeck said. “There’s no better emblem of that Arsenal of Democracy, that can-do spirit, and that manufacturing know-how here in Michigan, than the B-24.”
The Senate voted out the bill, SB 0326, unanimously.
“Michigan-Made WWII Bomber Plane Honored In Senate Bill”, Inside MIRS Today, October 23, 2015.
Dominic Valente, “Rosie the Riveters break world record at Willow Run Airport”, The Ann Arbor News, October 24, 2015.
“Michigan smashes world record for Rosie the Riveter gathering“, MLive, October 14, 2017.
Hasan Dudar, “Thousands of Rosies turn ‘We can do it!’ to ‘We did it!'”, Detroit Free Press, October 14, 2017.