Ypsilanti rings a bell for Rosie the Riveter
The American Rosie the Riveter Association (ARRA) works to honor women, or “Rosies,” who stepped up during World War II to fill roles in the labor force that were traditionally done by men. Every Labor Day at 1 p.m., Rosies across the country join friends and family in ringing a bell for Rosie the Riveter.
The Willow Run Chapter of ARRA held their third annual iteration of the event this year at North Bay Park in Ypsilanti. Many came clad in Rosie the Riveter’s trademark bandana: red with white polka dots. Several women who themselves served in factories during WW2 were in attendance at the event.
“They didn't think what they did was a big deal at all,” said Jeannette Gutierrez, president of the Willow Run Chapter of ARRA. “When we first started celebrating them. . . and, [saying], ‘We want to honor you,’ they're like, ‘For what? I didn't do anything different than anyone else.’”
The Rosies sat under a red tent with white polka-dots as around two dozen friends and family members gathered to honor them for their service.
“We probably, including you, would not be where we are at if it wasn't for women like them that went before us, “ said Brenda Stumbo, the Ypsilanti Township Supervisor. “There's no job they couldn't do, there's no job they wouldn't do, and they were very qualified to do it.”
99-year-old Marjorie Haskins worked at the Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti, which is famous for having produced a new B-24 bomber plane every hour.
“I had real nice people to work with,” Haskins said. “I was young, 17. And these older men that didn’t have to go to the war just treated me like a daughter. They were real good to me, and I just had a good life there.”
She sat next to her friend and fellow Rosie, 100-year-old Clara Doutly, who worked for Briggs Manufacturing Company in Detroit. The company made airplane wings for the bombers being produced at Willow Run.
“See, when the men came back from the war, they wanted their jobs back in the factory,” Doutly said. “Well, they took our jobs. I think a lot of us didn’t want to stay in the factory anyway.”
Robert Webb’s late mother, Ruth Maxine Pierson Webb, was very involved with the Willow Run chapter of ARRA. Even after her passing, Robert has continued to be very involved himself.
“We were a small group, say 50 people at the beginning,” Robert said. “We had little meetings to have coffee and donuts and just sit and talk, you know, anywhere we could get a place to sit and talk. And my mom told me, she says, ‘Stay with the group, you know, until it gets too expensive or you don't have any fun anymore.’ But we've had a great time”
With a big grin on his face, Robert greeted two of the Rosies: Virginia Basler and Emma Timmermann. Timmermann worked with both of her parents at the Stinson Aircraft Company in Wayne, which produced the L-13 Grasshopper. Her mother was an electrician, and her father worked in maintenance.
“I really don’t feel like they did very much,” Timmermann said. “We were there to get the war over with. That was it.”
Throughout the day, multiple ARRA members expressed that the Rosies tend to be incredibly humble. The women are just happy to be in each other’s company.
“I enjoy these gals so much, because we’re all getting up there,” Haskins said. “[Clara’s] over 100. I’m 99, and we’re just happy to be together, because we love each other.”