CLARKSVILLE – A fundraiser is underway to honor a real “Rosie the Riveter” who lived in Clarksville.
The Clarksville Historic Preservation Commission has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to create a monument dedicated to Rose Will Monroe, who worked as a riveter during World War II and was featured as Rosie the Riveter in a film making the promotion of war bonds. The facility will be located in Ashland Park, along the Clarksville River.
The commission aims to raise $40,000 by the end of March. If he achieves his goal, he will receive a matching grant through the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s CreatINg Places program.
Lynn Lewis, chair of the Clarksville Historic Preservation Commission, said “there are so many wonderful stories to tell about Clarksville,” including the story of Monroe.
“Rosie the Riveter was of course an icon of WWII and the power of women and the ‘can do’ spirit,” Lewis said.
The fundraising campaign kicked off at the start of March, Women’s History Month, and it will coincide with “Rosie the Riveter Day” on March 21.
“We’re on the right track and hope everyone will participate,” Lewis said. “We want everyone to be part of this celebration.”
The statue will be an interactive monument displaying the iconic “We Can Do It!” poster showing a woman flexing her muscles while wearing a bandana and overalls. This version of Rosie the Riveter was created in 1943 by J. Walter Miller for Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company’s wartime recruiting efforts.
The life-size statue will be made with a fiberglass shell and an internal steel frame. It will be able to “stand up to the weather and the river,” and people will be able to pose with Rosie, Lewis said. It will be created by the Weber Group, a local construction company.
The Rosie the Riveter character began with a song of the same name by Kay Kyser, and in addition to the Westinghouse poster, Rosie was also featured in a cover of Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post.
Monroe was originally from Kentucky, and when she was widowed at age 22, she left the state with her two young children to seek employment. Like many women at the time, she joined the war effort.
She worked at an aircraft parts factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where she riveted B29 and B24 bombers. Actor Walter Pidgeon visited the factory and cast Monroe to star in a promotional film as Rosie the Riveter.
“We searched long and hard for the film,” Lewis said. “We’ve spoken to the United States (National) Archives, and we’re concerned that it’s just defaced and no longer exists, but it was a film that was used a lot during the war effort to highlight value the women who have mobilized.”
After the war, Monroe moved to southern Indiana. She opened a beauty salon, worked as a taxi driver, got her pilot’s license and started her own construction business. In 1997, Monroe died at age 77 in Clarksville.
“Rosie during the war was an icon for American women, because American women stood up to make a difference so that men could go and fight overseas,” Lewis said. “That spirit lasted a long time.”
Jim Kenney, a member of the Clarksville Historic Preservation Commission, said the commission has always been involved in projects such as preserving historic buildings, but also aims to recognize “the people and stories of Clarksville.”
“It’s a very unique story, and we’re excited to tell it in a way that people can be proud of and have fun with. It (can) be an art form here on our riverside that people can come down and be interactive and have their picture taken,” Kenney said. “I think it brings a lot of pride to the community.”
The facility will be located along the Ohio River Greenway, which brings many pedestrians and cyclists, he said.
“I think it will be a place people stop when they visit other places along the river,” Kenney said.
Lewis recently received a photo of Monroe’s great-great-granddaughter at the child’s one-year-old birthday party. Ellington Rose was born on her great-great-grandmother’s 100th birthday. In the photo, the baby is dressed as Rosie the Riveter and pictures of Monroe are featured in the background.
Monroe’s family has expressed support for the commission’s efforts to bring Rosie’s statue to Clarksville, Lewis said.
This project aims to celebrate not only Monroe and the efforts of women during the war, but also the empowerment of women in general, she said.
“I think we have to remember that today women are making a huge difference in this world, and it’s not just in the war effort, it’s in every field, and we want to celebrate that,” Lewis said.
To donate to the crowdfunding campaign, go to www.patronicity.com/rosie.