On November 28, 1942, during World War II, the assembly
line at Ford Motor Company’s huge Willow Run plant at Ypsilanti,
Michigan, turned out its first production bomber, a B-24 Liberator. By
the time the plant reached its peak, in summer 1944, it was producing a
bomber an hour – thanks in no small part to Rosie the Riveter.
With so many men fighting overseas, war factories across the United
States faced a critical labor shortage. Posters bearing slogans such as
“Do the Job He Left Behind” and “Soldiers Without Guns” appealed for
women workers. Millions of American women who had never worked outside
the home traded aprons for overalls and went to work in the factories.
Soon they were tackling jobs only men had done before. They learned
welding, drafting, and sheet-metal work to build airplanes, Jeeps, and
ships. They packed ammo and tested guns, worked in lumber and steel
mills, drove trucks, operated cranes, and more.
The women often worked six days a week, giving up vacations and
holidays as long as the war dragged on. They put up with noisy, gritty
working conditions and then, in the evening, many trudged home to take
care of their children. All the while, they reminded themselves that
their sacrifices would shorten the war and bring loved ones home.
An admiring public nicknamed the women defense workers “Rosie the
Riveter.” Their tough resourcefulness helped transform America into the
arsenal of democracy.