Group needs $1.5m to save Rosie the Riveter’s workplace

Backers of the Save the Bomber Plant campaign hope to convert the factory to a museum.
Backers of the Save the Bomber Plant campaign hope to convert the factory to a museum. Associated Press/File 2013

DETROIT — A group trying to save the Detroit-area factory where Rosie the Riveter became an icon of American female empowerment during World War II said Friday that it must raise $1.5 million in little more than a month to save the site from being demolished.

Those behind the Save the Bomber Plant campaign said they have raised $6.5 million of the $8 million they need by May 1 to buy the Willow Run Bomber Plant west of Detroit.

They want to convert the factory, where Rose Will Monroe and other workers built B-24 bombers, into a museum dedicated to aviation and the countless other Rosies who toiled at similar US plants to aid the war effort.


The group has received several extensions to acquire a portion of the plant, but the time has come to either raise the necessary money or see it relegated to the history books, said Dennis Norton, the president of the Michigan Aerospace Foundation and one of the leaders of the effort to save the plant.

‘‘They need an answer from us,’’ Norton said, referring to the trust set up to oversee properties owned by a prebankruptcy General Motors. ‘‘Demolition is underway, and they can’t stop demolishing the plant, then come back later.’’

“Rosie the Riveter” was a symbol of patriotic women joining the US workforce.
“Rosie the Riveter” was a symbol of patriotic women joining the US workforce.AP/File

Norton and his team want to separate and preserve 175,000 square feet of the Ypsilanti Township, Mich., site and convert it into a new, expanded home for the Yankee Air Museum, which would move from its current location less than 2 miles away. Included would be the iconic 150-foot-wide doors through which thousands of bombers left the plant to play their role in winning the war.

The plant where Monroe and her fellow workers labored is ‘‘one of the birthplaces of modern America,’’ campaign fund-raising consultant Michael Montgomery said.

He said that in addition to churning out a bomber every hour, workers of different races and sexes worked side-by-side for equal pay, an achievement acknowledged at a reconstituted Yankee Air Museum.


Montgomery is ‘‘guardedly optimistic,’’ that the group can raise the rest of the money over the next few weeks, and Norton gave the group ‘‘a 75 percent chance of pulling it off.’’

Meetings with some major donor prospects have been scheduled, Montgomery said, and the campaign is hosting two public events over the next eight days designed to generate some cash as well as awareness.

An attempt will be made Saturday at the airport to set a new Guinness World Record for ‘‘The Most Rosie the Riveters in One Place.’’ The public is invited on April 5 to buff some historic bombers in preparation for the air show season.