Rosie the Riveter goes to Washington

Ford celebrated Women’s History Month by honoring the women who not only helped win a war, but paved the way for future generations.

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Rosie the Riveters hold a special place in U.S. history and a unique place in Ford’s. In the 1940s, when millions of men went off to fight in World War II, the country found itself needing more labor to produce the machines required for the war. Thankfully, an army of everyday housewives, mothers and daughters answered the call. Many saw it as their patriotic duty. Others, like Sylvia Tanis, had more personal reasons, “My only wishes…and the only reason I went: I wanted to bring my three brothers back from the service…I wanted them to come back alive.” These trailblazing women became known as Rosie the Riveters thanks to a popular film and promotional campaign of the time. 

Thousands of women like Sylvia, left their lives to go work in factories where they built the armaments that helped lead the US and its allies to victory in World War II. In doing so, they also changed the perceptions of what women were capable of, sparking a cultural revolution that expanded opportunities for future generations of American women. 

“These women not only helped win a war, they paved the way for future generations to achieve economic and personal independence.”

The Ford Motor Company Fund (Ford Fund) was started in 1949 with the goal of finding innovative solutions for addressing community concerns. It remains an ardent supporter of women and our military veterans to this day. So it was with great pleasure, on March 22, 2016, that the Ford Fund –  in partnership with Talons Out Honor Flight and the Yankee Air Museum – had the privilege of flying 30 original Rosie the Riveters to Washington, D.C. to celebrate their critical contributions to the war effort.

The Rosies, ranging in age from 88-98, visited the World War II Memorial and were treated to a special luncheon in their honor. The luncheon was held at the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill, where the ladies were joined by members of Congress from Michigan.

Many of the Honor Flight Rosies worked at our Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The plant’s mile-long assembly line churned out nearly 9,000 B-24 Liberators – roughly half of all B-24s built during the war. At its peak, the plant employed 42,000 workers, a third of them the pioneering Rosie the Riveters.

Last year, to pay tribute to its historic legacy, more than 2,000 women gathered at Willow Run to set the record for most Rosie representatives to assemble in one place. And now, thanks to a successful campaign to preserve the plant, a key section will be renovated and serve as the new home of the Yankee Air Museum.

Ford has sponsored 11 Honor Flights of World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., which, thanks to our relationships with DAV and the DAV Transportation Network, continues our over 90-year commitment to supporting military veterans and their families. Last year the Ford Fund also supported the Freedom Sisters REBOOT Workshop, which helps integrate women veterans back into civilian life, as well as Focus on Freedom, a program that honors veterans at the annual Ford Fireworks in Detroit.

 

Through the Ford Fund, we’ve now invested nearly $1.5 billion in civic organizations around the world – focusing our efforts on Community Life programs ranging from hunger relief to health care to support of cultural activities. We invest about one third of our funds into supporting education and programs that help schools offer their students new approaches to learning. Safety remains a priority for us. Our international, award-winning Ford Driving Skills for Life program continues to serve as the cornerstone of our safety efforts.