They were traditional American housewives, mothers and daughters in the 1940s, when suddenly everything changed. Millions of men left home to fight in World War II, and the country needed help to produce the machines of war. An army of women answered the call.
They became known as Rosie the Riveters, thanks to a popular film and promotional campaign. In addition to their work on assembly lines, they had a lasting impact on the country, changing perceptions and expanding opportunities for future women in the workforce.
Ford Motor Company Fund, Talons Out Honor Flight and Yankee Air Museum today flew 30 original Rosie the Riveters to Washington, D.C., to celebrate their critical contributions to the war effort. The Rosies, ages 88-98, are being treated to a visit to the World War II Memorial and a special luncheon in their honor at the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill with members of Congress from Michigan.
Ford and its Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, was a major force in the Arsenal of Democracy, the term given to the industrial powers that came together to support the Allied war effort and victory. The plant’s mile-long assembly line churned out nearly 9,000 B-24 Liberators – one every hour, or half of all the B-24s built during the war. At peak production, Willow Run employed 42,000 workers, up to one-third of them pioneering women industrial workers.
“These women not only helped win a war, they paved the way for future generations to achieve economic and personal independence,” said Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services, the philanthropic arm of Ford. “It is an honor to celebrate their vital contributions to our country and the cause of freedom.”
Today’s Honor Flight is part of Ford’s ongoing support for women and military veterans. Ford has sponsored 11 Honor Flights of World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. Last year, Ford Fund supported the Freedom Sisters REBOOT Workshop, which helped integrate women military veterans back into civilian life.
Ford’s support for veterans and their families dates back more than 90 years through its relationship with DAV, formerly Disabled American Veterans, and the DAV Transportation Network. Ford also supports Focus on Freedom, a program honoring veterans at the annual Ford Fireworks in Detroit.
Meantime, a key section of the historic Ford Willow Run Bomber Plant will become the new home for Yankee Air Museum following a successful fund-raising campaign to preserve and renovate the facility. In tribute to her lasting legacy, more than 2,000 women last year gathered at Willow Run Airport to set the record for the most representatives of Rosie to assemble in one place.