Philanthropist, Rosie the Riveter Historian
July 3, 2019 (Segment One)
When the United States went to battle against the most powerful armies the world had ever seen—Adolph HItler’s Wehrmacht Nazi war machine and the fanatics of Hirohito’s Imperial Japan—we were slightly behind the eight ball. You could probably say we were completely unprepared.
Men were training with wooden guns, paper bi-planes, WWI era tanks, and antiquated equipment. The Armed Forces were small, underfunded, and lacking broad-based public support. Exacerbating that was an organized campaign and coalition to keep America completely out of the war. It was led by two of the nation’s most respected and prominent citizens: Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh.
So, when the December 7th, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ended in success for Japan, and disaster for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the nation went from totally unprepared to completely vulnerable and virtually defenseless.
In fact, the thing that truly prevented a Japanese invasion of the American Mainland was the fervent belief of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack) that the Japanese troops would be “met with a rifle behind every blade of grass”, because of America’s gun ownership culture.
Instead, they would simply run rampant throughout the Pacific Ocean and Asia, knowing the U.S. couldn’t respond. Meanwhile, Hitler had little to fear as he pummeled the British nearly to death at Dunkirk, and stomped through Africa and Europe, almost unopposed.
How would the U.S. ever catch up? How could we place millions of men into the military, while simultaneously replacing them in the critical manufacturing jobs they currently manned?
Enter Rosie the Riveter! Rosie was named after a real woman who worked in the Willow Run Assembly in Ypsilanti, but she quickly became an iconic poster and symbol. She represented the six million women who stepped up, and stepped in to the American workforce, and without whom the U.S. Arsenal of Democracy couldn’t have existed.
Although women had been represented in the manufacturing and factory workforce prior to the war, they had mostly been engaged in administrative work, or fine small parts assembly.
But now they emerged wielding a rivet gun, and building weapons, bombers, and tanks!
The American war effort would out gun, out manufacture, and out produce the Axis powers and lead to the ultimate defeat. With GM and Flint leading the way, the U.S. would end the greatest threat the world has ever known, and become the towering solo world super power we are today, and we owe a lot of it to all of the Rosies!
When Amber Taylor first saw Rosie’s story, she immediately felt a kinship to her in a variety of ways. It was an emotional moment. A Flint Chamber of Commerce stalwart, working mom, and all-around adventurer, she quickly became engaged in leading a campaign to add a statue of Rosie to the pantheon of Flint and American manufacturing heroes situated around the city that include Billy Durant, David Buick, Louis Chevrolet, C. S. Mott, Walter Chrysler, Albert Champion, and the UAW.
Amber dresses up in a 1940’s Rosie outfit and actually becomes Rosie the Riveter incarnate. She speaks to groups and organizations telling the Rosie story, all in an effort to raise funds to have that Rosie statue created and placed in a place of prominence at Flint’s Bishop Airport.
My own grandmothers were Rosies, as were my great aunts. They manned those factories, building that Arsenal of Democracy. They helped beat Hitler and Hirohito, and they were part of the greatest manufacturing mobilization the world has ever seen. Without Flint and GM, and without Rosie, it’s unlikely America would have won the war.
Therefore, there can be no better place to commemorate Rosie than right here in Flint, and no better place to tell her story than right here on Fish and the Flint Chronicles!