The year was 1942, and Detroit’s factories were teeming with tenacious, skillful women who were churning out tanks, planes, shells and other weaponry that would be instrumental in winning World War II.
The women, known as “Rosies,” entered the workforce in unprecedented numbers, replacing enlisted men whose absence left a gaping hole in the industrial labor force.
The empowering story of these brave, proficient women is wonderfully captured in a new children’s book, “Rosie, A Detroit Herstory.”
Local author Bailey Sisoy Isgro, owner of Detroit History Tours, uses clever rhymes to lay out a narrative that is accessible, inspiring and educational. The book is beautifully illustrated by Detroit artist Nicole Lapointe, whose bold and powerful images depict the women who helped earned Detroit the nickname, “Arsenal of Democracy.”
Crucial to winning the war for the Allies, Rosies were “a group of women defined not by the identity of a single riveter in a single factory, but by the collective might of hundreds of thousands of women whose labors helped save the world,” the book explains in the introduction.
The Wayne State University Press book, which is now available at Amazon and local bookstores, begins with the lead-up to America’s involvement in WWII.
“Off to war, the men of Detroit soon marched.
At home, blue coveralls were ironed and starched
Bandanas were tied around victory curls
By new factory workers – women and girls.”
What unfolds is the compelling, unforgettable and historically significant account of thousands of women recruited to auto factories that were transformed into hubs for making war supplies.
“Bright-eyed women were plucked from local high schools,
And automative secretarial pools.
They were tested for aptitude, measured, and weighed,
Sent off to training class without being delayed.
Now that the fires of war and industry were lit,
The women of Detroit declared, ‘We can do it.’”
Many historians believe the ubiquitous icon of Rosie the Riveter began at the Willow Run bomber plant, where Rose Will Monroe worked as a riveter.
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“From liberator bombers to Sherman tanks,
Massive battleships to machine gunner cranks,
Bullets by the millions and bombs by the ton.
The women of Detroit helped get it all done!”
Lapointe’s illustrations of Rosie brim with cheerful vitality, creating a captivating atmosphere of hard-working women in jobs traditionally given to men. The depictions of Rosie – her hair wrapped in a red polka-dot scarf, flexing her bicep – pay tribute to the courageous and determined women who proved to the world that they were just as capable in the workforce as men.
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The idea for the book came during a 10-hour drive to the Women’s March in Washington D.C., where droves of women came together to assert their rights.
“Rosie, A Detroit Herstory” offers an inspiring lesson to children about the profound role women can play with hard work and determination.
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Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.