We were recently honored by a visit from Donnaleen Lanktree, president of the American Rosie the Riveter Association (ARRA).
The group’s purpose is to honor those women who worked in the factories during World War II while the men were sent overseas.
We had a ceremony at the NASGI Memorial Garden, located behind the Grosse Ile Township building on Groh Road. Several rosebushes were planted and dedicated to the Rosies who were relatives of Grosse Ile residents.
So who were the Rosies and what did they do to be so honored and why must they never be forgotten?
In June of 2013 our VFW Post received a letter from Donnaleen stating that the annual national convention of the ARRA would be held at the Dearborn Inn during the weekend of 14-16 June.
I called Donnaleen and expressed my interest. I read my Vietnam story to her and she invited me to so the same at a dinner. A little research prior to the dinner revealed the following:
Rosies were mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and grandmothers.
They worked as riveters, buckers, sanders, welders, crane operators, bus drivers, uniform makers, bullet makers, Red Cross workers and much more.
Rosies came from all over the country, from small towns to big cities.
They came together with one purpose – to help win the war.
They built 80,000 landing craft, 100,000 tanks, 300,000 aircraft and millions of firearms and ammunition.
The Rosies were much more than women working together. They all shared the same worries, that of their loved ones overseas.
Will they be remembered?
That is the purpose of the ARRA. While their numbers continue to dwindle, their descendants continue to keep their memories alive just as we do of those men who failed to return from overseas.
On the day of the dinner our party of a dozen people arrived at the Dearborn Inn at 6 p.m. to a beautiful setting. There were about 150 people in attendance, 15 of which were original Rosies.
After reading my story to them, I visited several of the tables and a few of the Rosies.
Ruth Webb, a 90-year-old Rosie from Indiana told me, “I was a riveter and moved to Michigan because the pay was better.”
The fifty dollars she was paid monthly was considerably less than what the men were paid for the same type of work.
She went on to say, “We moved from Sullivan, Indiana to Willow Run Airport in Michigan in a flat-bed wide open truck that carried a goat, which we milked to feed the children.”
Then I spotted two women that appeared to be Rosies. They looked like twins to me. Sure enough, they were 90-year-old identical twins from Nebraska.
Wilma told me that she and Amelia went to work right after high school in 1943.
They went to Seattle and she said, “We worked as riveters and drillers on B17 bombers and soon became mechanics.”
Rosie Jean from Kentucky said, “We had to produce an airplane every 57 minutes.”
This was right after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that women were sought nationwide to replace the working men. Over six million females joined the workforce and built planes, bombs and tanks. They worked in factories and shipyards all over America. The American workforce completely changed.
The American Rosie the Riveter Association was founded in 1998 in honor of those women of World War II with the motto of “We can do it” and by God, “they did it.”