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Rosie the Riveter Factory Set for Demolition: $3.5 Million Needed This Week to Save a Piece of History

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First Posted: Jul 30, 2013 09:17 AM EDT

The Detroit-area plant that gave birth to "Rosie the Riveter," the ubiquitous cultural icon of the Second World War that became a symbol of feminism and women's economic empowerment, will soon be torn down unless a Michigan non-profit can raise the $3.5 million needed to save it by Thursday. 

The Willow Run Bomber Plant -- a former Ford Motor Co. automobile factory that sits west of Detroit -- was built in the 1940s, producing nearly 9,000 B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II. The plant was once the largest factory in the world, employing 40,000 men and women, including Rose Will Monroe.

Monroe, who was originally from Kentucky and moved to Michigan during the war to work as a riveter building bombers for the U.S. Army Air Forces, was chosen to star in a promotional film about the war effort. The films and posters she appeared in were used to inspire women to take factory jobs when men were deployed to war.

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Monroe and her image came to symbolize the thousands of women who took factory jobs and incited social change that challenged the idea that physical labor is a "man's work."

The Michigan Aerospace Foundation launched the Save The Willow Run Bomber Plant campaign as part of its effort to save the factory and make it the new home for the Yankee Air Museum, who's former headquarters were destroyed in a fire in 2004. While the foundation has already raised $4.5 million, it must raise $3.5 million more by Thursday to save the plant.

"The younger generation needs to know what people went through and be able to go and see what they did and how they did it for our country," Larry Doe, a 70-year-old Ypsilanti Township resident who has donated to the cause, said recently before joining other donors for a trip on a B-17.

After the end of the war, the 70-year-old Willow Run factory returned to making automobiles until it closed in 2010.

''We now have the opportunity to actually take a piece of this plant. It's due to be demolished over the next two or three years,'' said Dennis Norton, president of the Michigan Aerospace Foundation. ''There's no further use for it. It's too big. It's too old to be used in modern-day manufacturing.''

The The Willow Run Bomber Plant employed thousands of women during World War II -- including Rose Will Monroe.
(Photo : Associated Press)

 

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