Performance of Willow Run at Purple Rose Theater Welcomes Some of The Original “Rosies”

By Lynne Beauchamp,

Nine of the original “Rosies” otherwise known as “Rosie the Riveter” were guest attendees during The Purple Rose Theater’s show Willow Run on August 18 in Chelsea.

Willow Run, is The Purple Rose Theater’s latest performance about the WWII B-24 bomber factory near Ypsilanti, Michigan which employed mostly women. The play follows the journey of four of those women

that were employed at the plant.

The performance left guests teary-eyed as they exited the theater, while one of the “Rosies” left the show saying the play was wonderful.

Nine of the women who worked in the factories that built bomber planes and other war related equipment, were given the chance to speak after the show to share their story.

To protect the privacy of the women, only their first name will be used.

Clara worked in the Briggs factory as a riveter.  She said she was hired in at $1.99 an hour, which was “good money at the time.” Clara was born in Detroit, went to Cass Tech and still lives in the area.

“I’m not old” said 97-year-old Clara. “I just been around a long time.”

Iva said she worked at the bomber plant and she was happy to know she was part of the war effort.  Her then husband-to-be served in WWII while she was working. Iva’s daughter said Iva was able to purchase a home with her wages at nineteen years old, had it paid for by the time her husband returned home from the war and said Iva continues to live in the same home to this day.

Stella said she was born in Poland. When the war broke out, she and her father went to school to obtain their US citizenship. She then worked for Ford working on transmissions and then GM on the B-29’s as a riveter.

Mallie is from Hazard, Kentucky and came to Michigan in 1943. She said she worked for Briggs in Detroit for $1 an hour. Mallie said the man who hired her gave her three pair of coveralls. She said she asked him who the coveralls were for and the man replied they were for her.

“I told him I wasn’t wearing those things and he said you will if you work here,” laughed Mallie as she told her story of working on B-29 airplanes.

Chelsea’s Mayor, Melissa Johnson, in a heartfelt speech, recognized the women for their efforts during World War II.

“The City of Chelsea would like to offer our congratulations for the deserving recognition of all the Willow Run Rosies, including several of these pioneering women who are members of the Chelsea Community. It is our hope that this recognition is just one of many ways to continue to honor the service and trailblazing efforts of these women. Tributes such as The Purple Rose Theater Company’s world premiere of the play, Willow Run,an original play featuring the women at the Willow Run Bomber Plant and the renovation of the Willow Run Bomber Plant, help honor and pay homage to the Rosies and all of the home front activities that brought victory to the allies in WWII,” said Johnson.

Guy Sanville, Director of Willow Run, also spoke. He explained how the show and the stories of the women during WWII, touched many of the staff, cast and crew of The Purple Rose Theater.

“Some guy was smart enough and got a bunch of guys together behind closed doors in Washington to realize that we could not win this war without women,” said Sanville to the Rosies and crowd. “You saved the country and the world.”

Willow Runis currently a sold-out show explained Katie Hubbard of The Purple Rose Theater, however one can call the box office to request tickets should a cancellation occur. Sanville added he hoped to present the show again in the future­­­.





Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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