Women pay homage, raise awareness for Bomber Plant campaign

“I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, a Yankee Doodle, do or die,” a group of women sings in happiness. “A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam, born on the Fourth of July…”

On a chilly Wednesday afternoon, 143 women and young girls joined the Yankee Museum in Ypsilanti in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most Rosie the Riveters in one place and to bring attention to the “Save the Bomber Plant” campaign.

Generations of women gathered in their red and white polka-dotted headscarves, dark blue overalls, red socks and work boots with their muscles flexed in homage to the iconic Rosie the Riveter.

Despite not achieving their goal of having 250 participants present and getting a spot in the record books, the event organizers like Jane Vass are determined and ready to give it another shot next summer.

Her hope is to also have a larger turnout of college women, especially from Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College and the University of Michigan.

What made the event far more special was the presence of four real life “Rosies”: Vivian Litchard, Shirley Clark, Rachel Perry and Ruth Webb, who worked in the Bomber Plant building B-24 liberators during World War II. They are all members of the American Rosie the Riveter Association.

Webb, 92, whose responsibilities included riveting and repairing, was accompanied by her son, granddaughter and great-granddaughters at the event. Her opinion of seeing so many women come together was short and sweet with a hearty giggle, “Happy! Yeah, I love it! ” She also described of her experience with working at the plant for the time she was there.

“You had to make time for every one of those rivets, and I had to make sure they were put back in the right place,” Webb said.

Eastern Michigan University alumni and students were among the participants and though were short of breaking the record, were still in high spirits and in awe of the amount of support: Carol Tinkle, 1985 graduate and former Bomber Plant employee; 2013 graduate Amelia Bondie, senior Ashley Rutherford, 2010 graduate Lindsay Shanks, 2007 graduate Laura Sokol and Ashley Turner, historic preservation master’s program student.

“I say for me it’s important because I work in aviation and my grandma worked in the Bomber Plant back in the day,” Shanks said. “So it’s a big deal to me.”

The image and significance of Rosie the Riveter has inspired women to break out of the image as stay-at-home-mother mold, proving they are capable of getting the job done. Overall, it has inspired generations of women to show their Rosie pride in any work field and to be fearless.

“It’s relatable,” Bondie said. “You feel like it could be anybody you know and like Jane’s whole deal with this is like everyone is their own Rosie. It’s not a mold. Everyone’s different, and everybody did this; it wasn’t a certain kind of person that did it.”

“And being a woman, people think that you’re supposed to be a stay-at-home mom or whatever,” Rutherford said. “We actually feel like that we can go out and do things that people say that we can’t do.”

Here’s some “Rosie” trivia: The iconic image that we all know today by J. Howard Miller was taken of Ann Arbor, Mich., factory worker Geraldine Hoff Doyle, who was 17 at the time.

The poster didn’t become widely known until the 1980s when feminists and advocates used it as a symbol while fighting for women equality in the workplace. She wasn’t aware of the poster until 1984 when she saw it in an article for Modern Maturity magazine. Doyle passed away on December 26, 2010 in Lansing, Michigan at the age of 86.

The “Rosies” have been carrying the “We Can Do It!” spirit this summer with their efforts and promotion to save the Bomber Plant that is in jeopardy of being demolished. To date, the museum and volunteers have managed to raise $6 million dollars out of the $8 million needed to save the plant. If they can obtain the $2 million dollars before May 1, 2014 the plant will be refurbished and become the new location of the Yankee Museum to reserve the incredible history that it holds.

“This was a big step for women to be in a plant – that was a big deal,” Bondie said. “For these women to go out and get these big jobs. I mean, riveting, that’s hard, hard work.”

To learn more about the effort to save the Bomber Plant or to donate, visit savethebomberplant.com.

Rosie The Riveter attempts Guinness World Record: http://www.easternecho.com/gallery/rosie-the-riveter-attempts-guinness-world-record

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