At the Highland Park Ford Factory shortly after dawn on Saturday, 150 Metro Detroit women are gathering to suit up in blue coveralls, tie their hair in a red polka dot bandana and pile into three buses.
Their destination: A place where they hope to make history with hundreds of other women at a gathering to reclaim the title of the Guinness World Record for Largest Gathering of Rosie the Riveters.
“We are going to crush the record,” said Bailey Sisoy Isgro, founder of the Detroit History Club, organizer of the caravan to Ypsilanti and author of the recently-published children’s book, Rosie, A Detroit Herstory.
The biannual event has been a friendly competition mostly between California and Michigan. Michigan held the record in 2015, but last year, 2,265 people dressed as Rosie the Riveter assembled at Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park in California, and took the record.
At this year’s local event, held at Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center, the gathering will be also a time to celebrate women, work and America.
“The competition between California and Michigan strengthens women and strengthens our nation,” said U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, one of the co-chairs of the event. “Our event will combine meaningful messages and activities for recognizing the power that we, as women, bring to the workplace and the economy.”
Rosie the Riveter is an icon, representing women who entered the workforce during World War II, often in factories, shipyards and other jobs dominated by men, when they went off to war.
She is a symbol of female economic power, with her arm flexing a muscle and the slogan, “We can do it!”
But Rosie was four real woman who represented working women in defense industries, according to the American National Biography Online. Among the real Rosies was Rose Will Monroe, who built B-24 and B-49 bomber airplanes at the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, and Geraldine Hoff Doyle, who was the model for the We Can Do It! poster and graduated from high school in Ann Arbor.
“Rosie the Riveter endures as an important figure in America because she empowers,” said Kevin Walsh, executive director of the Yankee Air Museum, who is sponsoring the event. “We meet women, all the time, and from all walks of life, who trace their success back to Rosie the Riveter breaking down barriers. Reclaiming the Guinness World Record amplifies Rosie’s inspiration as a community, with one voice!”
Doors open at 9:00 a.m. for the Guinness World Record for most Rosie the Riveters. Participants must arrive by 11 a.m. to be counted.
The center is located at 799 North Hewitt Road in Ypsilanti.