They did it! Women of Michigan IT contribute to world record

  • Deborah Gowan, manager, Application Operations, ITS, shows that she has the can-do spirit. (Deborah Gowan)

On October 14, 2017, more than 3,700 women and girls dressed as the iconic Rosie the Riveter—dark blue work clothes, red socks, and the effervescent, red-and-white polka-dot bandana. Together, they set a new world record of the most people dressed as Rosie the Riveter gathered in one place. Kudos to all Michigan IT staff who participated! Here’s what some had to say about their experience:

Kimberly Bonner (HITS) participated alongside her family. “It was overwhelming how many people were dressed up, even men and boys. We joined this effort to honor my grandmother who was an ‘Original Rosie’ at a Willow Run factory auxiliary location during WWII. We also did it to honor my mother and aunt, who both worked at the Willow Run factory when it was still open. Although they worked there long after World War II was over, the rich history of the facility was palpable.”

Ellen Bunting (HITS) also participated at the original, record-setting event in 2015. This time she attended as a volunteer and experienced it from a different perspective. “It was very crowded, but people were fairly relaxed, in spite of so much going on. My volunteer team was in charge of the overflow area, so we were gathering all of the people who didn’t fit in the lower level of the EMU Convocation Center, grouping participants into sets of 50, and then sending them with the stewards through the official counting turnstile.”

Deborah Gowan (ITS) felt it was important to highlight the achievements of those who helped pave the way for women in the workforce today. “I especially enjoyed seeing all of the little girls dressed up as Rosie the Riveter. There was an activity geared for kids that included the actual rivet guns used to build planes at the Willow Run Bomber Plant during WWII. I was also very inspired to see so many ‘Original Rosies’ in attendance. Many of them were in wheelchairs, but they were all dressed up, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was heartwarming to see the little girls hugging the ‘Original Rosies.’”

Kim Jacobson (HITS) wanted to support the renovation of the Willow Run Bomber Plant, the WWII-era factory where many ‘Original Rosies’ worked. “It was important to me to highlight the value of the plant and Rosie herself in American history. We need to maintain this legacy for generations to come, because it helps understand women in the workforce today. And I’m really happy that I got to share this experience with my family, including my three granddaughters and my daughter-in-law. I absolutely loved setting a new world record! And it was inspiring to see so many of the ‘Original Rosies’ at the event!”

Bon Thomas (ITS) participated in 2015 and was eager to bring the record, previously broken in California in 2016, back to Michigan. “I enjoyed being able to share this with my mom and granddaughter. I was very impressed by how many people were there—over 3,755 at this event, and even some from different states! This shows the importance of women’s contributions during the war; they were so valuable to the success of our country. I’m proud of their pioneering efforts for all women in the workforce. It was also a great way to teach the younger generations that hard work pays off, because the rights we have today did not come easily.”

Toni Henkemeyer (HITS affiliate) joined the event to honor the important role of the factory worker in current American society. “I have been inspired by Rosie the Riveter for a long time. This fun event had so many ‘Original Rosies!’ Many more people participated than I thought would be there; it was really exciting! I was also pleased to highlight a part of women’s history that had such an impact on the workforce of today.”

The organizing chairwoman for the event, Alison Beatty, is a joint Ph.D. student in political science at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. “Acting as the chairwoman was a labor of love, and I hope that the women of Michigan will be inspired about their wonderful, incredible heritage, and that they will always see the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant as the spiritual home of Rosie the Riveter and all of this powerful, positive energy. The local pride in Rosie the Riveter, and the fact that she worked in Ypsilanti, made the whole day wonderful. It was thrilling when the 57 ‘Original Rosies’ in attendance received a standing ovation from more than 3,700 other women to honor them for their accomplishments.”

Author: D. Stephanie Dascola, ITS Communications

Stephanie is a marketing and communications specialist senior on the ITS Communications team. Contact her at