Rosie the Riveter is an iconic image from World War II. Her “can do” attitude helped thousands of women to join the workforce during the war and paved the way for working women even after the war ended. You may not realize it, but there are still Rosies among us and you may even have some in your family. A unique event this past weekend brought together hundreds of women dressed as Rosie the Riveter, and even included a few original Rosies. A new Guinness World Record was set at the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan as 2,097 women dressed as Rosie gathered together for a photo. I was one of those Rosies.
Being a part of this event was so many things including exciting, educational, and emotional. I spent quite a lot of time perfecting my costume to meet the Guinness specifications: dark blue jumpsuit, knee-high red socks, black work boots, hair pinned up, and a red bandana with white polka dots the size of a penny. My excitement grew as I watched the Facebook event page and saw the number of attendees growing. We had to break the previous record of 1,084 which was set in California. Could we do it?
The event took place at Willow Run Airport, which is adjacent to the Willow Run Bomber Plant. Many Rosies worked at the Bomber Plant during WWII building airplanes on an assembly line that could produce a plane every 55 minutes. The Bomber Plant is now being transformed into an aviation museum. This event helped to bring awareness and funding support to the new museum, slated to open in 2017.
I arrived at the event four hours prior to the 2pm world record photo. I wanted to learn as much as I could and meet other Rosies while I was there. I had a lot of fun wading through the sea of blue jumpsuits and polka dot bandanas to learn more about the history, and the future of the Willow Run Bomber Plant. I am so excited to visit the new museum when it opens.
Participation was welcomed from ladies of all ages. There were infants, children, dolls, and nonagenarians alike – all dressed as Rosie the Riveter. One little Rosie was celebrating her first birthday at the event – and her actual name is Rosie! There were dozens of little girls proudly sporting their patriotic ensembles, some of them toting along their Rosie dolls or homemade signs. There was even an area specifically for children, which I had to partake in as well. Kids could color the iconic “We Can Do It” poster, and play a matching game to win a Rosie sticker.
One of my favorite parts of the day was setting the official record. Once all of the Rosies walked through the turnstile to be counted, we had to stand together for 5 minutes to set the record. It was announced that there were officially 2,097 Rosies present and a cheer erupted from the crowd. To pass the 5 minutes, we all joined together in song, singing patriotic tunes such as the Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and Amazing Grace. This was such a heartwarming experience, and I know that I wasn’t the only one fighting back tears. When the 5 minutes was over, we all congratulated one another before making our way back home. Ladies had traveled from out of state, and even from Canada to help us break the world record.
It was such an amazing experience to see so many different people join together to support something so unique. As a high school history teacher, I was in heaven to be with a group of people so passionate about one of my favorite historical periods. Hopefully the Willow Run Rosies will hold the record for years to come, but if we need to break it again, I will be there!
Museum Education Advisor
Girl Museum Inc.