Rosie the Riveter stops at Imlay library March 6th
IMLAY CITY — In a world that seems increasingly confusing, incredibly divided and a little bit off kilter, taking a moment to reflect on the past can help tip the scales and remind us of the strength in having a common goal.
“The Greatest Generation” earned its reputation not through self-interest and steadfast political beliefs, but through the patriotic belief “United We Stand.”
While men signed up for the frontlines as World War II shook the country, women did their part too.
Along with Victory Gardens and rationing food and supplies, women played an instrumental role in bolstering the U.S. and its military forces. They literally rolled up their sleeves and tackled unfamiliar tasks with determination.
Collectively known as “Rosie the Riveter,” these women were mothers, daughters, neighbors and friends. Recruited into the defense industry to perform jobs formerly relegated to men only, “the Rosies” were an instrumental part of the war effort. Stepping in to fill roles in the aviation and munitions industries, Rosies stepped into jobs vacated by thousands of men who enlisted to serve during the war.
Area residents have a unique opportunity to learn all about the impact that the Rosies had, not just in the war effort but in the empowerment of women going forward.
This Monday, March 6, “Rosie the Riveter” will be on hand at the Ruth Hughes Library beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Bette Kenward, Vice President of the Eastern Michigan WOW Chapter of the Rosie the Riveter Association, will share the efforts and history of the Rosies, and bring along artifacts from that era in the 1940s.
Kenward’s grandmother, Marion Chapin, was a Rosie. Kenward, therefore, is a “rosebud,” as are all female descendants of Rosies.
“Male descendants are known as riveters,” she says.
That tidbit and more will be shared in Kenward’s presentation, which she has given a special name.
“I call it ‘Rosie, more than a riveter,’ because everyone thinks they were all riveters,” she says. “Rosies actually were all homefront workers doing the job during World War II. They worked in factories, had Victory Gardens and had a special part in helping the country during a really horrible time in history.”
It was that “pulling together” that made the collective so powerful, Kenward adds.
“We have the ‘band of brothers.’ They were the ‘band of sisters,’ just as strong,” she says.
Along with learning about Rosie the Riveter history, visitors can see a rivet gun and rivets used in aircraft on a rivet board. They can also take a look at a ration book and other memorabilia from the 1940s.
“It’s a chance to show kids things they’ve never seen, and neat to help put it (the past) in perspective,” Kenward says.
Legacy banners, featuring photos and information about Rosies, both local and statewide, will also be part of the display. The banners are used in parades and presentations across the state and country.
“When we have a presentation we can’t always have Rosies there, as they may not be feeling well or can’t attend,” Kenward explains. “The banners make it almost like the Rosie is there with us, and we can see a little bit about each of them both when they were younger and as they are now.”
She’s currently raising funds to create more banners, and donations will be gratefully accepted.
Most of all, Kenward is eager to share the lasting influence the Rosies created some 70 years ago.
“A lot of people think the Rosies were there to empower women,” she says. “It’s not about empowerment, it’s about patriotism. Because of their patriotism, women have become empowered today.”
Along with working on the legacy banner project, Kenward is working on plans for March, which is Women’s History Month, with a special event planned for March 21. Later in the month, Kenward will accompany nine original Rosies on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., where they will be greeted by Reps. Debbie Dingell and Lisa McClain.
The “Rosie, more than a Riveter” presentation begins at 5:30 on Monday, March 6, at the Ruth Hughes Library on Almont Ave. There is no charge to attend.
For more information call the library at 810-724-8043 for more information.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.