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Posted on Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan grad student brings Rosie the Riveter to life to help Yankee Air Museum fundraising efforts

By Ben Freed


University of Michigan graduate student Alison Beatty dressed as Rosie the Riveter and stationed herself at a busy Ann Arbor intersection this week to raise awareness for the campaign to save part of the former B-24 Liberator bomber plant at Willow Run.

Melanie Maxwell |

As fundraising continues for Yankee Air Museum’s bid to buy a piece of the former General Motors powertrain plant, one University of Michigan graduate student decided to make the campaign personal.

“Well, I love history, I kind of look like Rosie the Riveter and it was a really easy costume to put together,” said Alison Beatty, who has been standing all week at the corner of Jackson Avenue and West Stadium Boulevard with a “” sign.

“The response has been really positive. Everyone seems to connect to Rosie.”

Beatty was moved to act when she logged onto the fundraising campaign’s website three weeks after she first noticed the yard signs adorned with Rosie the Riveter that have been displayed around the region.

“When I finally went there were only five days before what was the deadline and I thought ‘I wish I had gotten here earlier so I could have emailed all of my friends and family and asked them to donate,’” she said.

“The only thing I could think of that would have made me go earlier was someone attracting attention to the sign. So that’s what inspired me to come out here and do the Rosie thing.”

Beatty said that the “Rosie thing,” has been a fun experience for her and made her realize how much appeal the character has more than 70 years after she worked at the plant just down the road.

“Guys love her, girls emote with her and people of all ages just really like her,” she said. “That’s something I didn’t really get before I started all this but it’s been great to see.”

Friday was Beatty’s last day in front of Zingerman’s Roadhouse, where she said a number of people have tried to give her donations on the spot that she cannot accept. She plans on being at the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show at the museum on August 10-11, and she said that if she’s making a noticeable impact she’ll keep up the work through September and up to the new October 1 deadline.


Passers by shouted words of encouragement and some even stopped to chat with U-M grad student Alison Beatty as she advertised for the Save the Bomber Plant campaign.

Melanie Maxwell |

“I’m really passionate about Michigan history, and Detroit during the war was called the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ because so many plants were switched over to building war machines,” she said.

“… The history of what happened in Michigan with the rise and fall of the automobile industry, and the fact that we had the industrial and factory power to help win the war, is something really incredible that should be preserved.”

Beatty grew up in the Ann Arbor area and went to Chelsea High School. She said her interest in Michigan history was piqued after her experience as an undergraduate student at the University of Texas at Dallas.

“Texans have so much pride for their state and the culture there, that it kind of made me feel the same way about Michigan,” she said.

According to the campaign’s website, on Friday afternoon approximately $4.5 million has been raised of the $8 million needed to save the portion of the plant that made B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II.

After facing an August 1 deadline, the museum was given a 60 day extension earlier this week by the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, the organization in charge of the property. The trust said in a statement that the fundraising effort’s “success and momentum” made the extension possible.

On top of her state pride and historical interests, Beatty has a special connection to the B-24 bombers made at the Willow Run plant.

“My grandpa was actually a tail gunner in a B-24 Liberator bomber in the war,” she said.

“The tail gunner is the most dangerous job, but he was a good shot, so they put him in the back. I think a part of this is to honor him and the other people who were involved in the war and everything that they did.”

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Mon, Aug 5, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

How much did she collect? I would be willing to join her in collecting for this great effort. Although I don't think I would look as great as she does in those coveralls and bandana. I think the drivers would ask if I was the bomber. Not. Great job.

Speedy Squirrel

Sun, Aug 4, 2013 : 3:01 a.m.

Why not have the bankruptcy judge overturn the rules that Racer Trust is claiming prevents it from donating this otherwise worthless property? The amount they are asking is ridiculous. Why not in fact reward any purchaser of the subsequently cleared property a tax benefit for allowing part of this historical structure to continue to exist? This is an extraordinarily important part of our nation's history. Rosie the Riveters weren't just poster characters. They were real human beings who took on an exceptional challenge. Even while the people dearest to them were in harms way, they put together these planes. The fact that they were producing a bomber an hour (actually every 63 minutes) demonstrably demoralized the enemy, when they realized they could not shoot them down that fast. They also demonstrated to American women that they COULD do it, in a way that had never occurred previously.

Michael Rodemer

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 9:41 p.m.

I'm puzzled -- how could 3 out of 13 responses violate conversation guidelines? What's not to like about this topic?

Odile Haber

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.

In Burgundy, France where we are, on the 3 September 1944 a B17 was forced to land in the field of Damerey with aboard nine American soldiers. One of them was James C Grubbs who died in 2006 in the US. So 69 years later the mayor of this little town of around 500 people on Saturday July 4 2013 invited his daughter to come to this French town and celebrate the day by telling the school children and the inhabitants the story of her dad. It was a nice meeting in the back of the school, and every one had a glass of wine or juice and some brioche. Four American younger people attended, and were mentioned in the local newspapers.

Jeannette Gutierrez

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

Very nice! Thanks, Odile.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

Maybe the Yankee Air Museum can get a whole bunch of Rosies to do this at various locations throughout the area - and other areas - who can actually accept donations. She seems to have people ready to donate on the spot. How many might forget to donate by the time they get home? Also, is there any way that YAM (or can kind of push to get this story onto channel 4 or 7, which might get it some national recognition on NBC or ABC? My hat is off to Alison Beatty for coming up with this idea and jumping right in!

Jeannette Gutierrez

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

What a smart and creative young woman! She really embodies the "We can do it!" spirit. Rosie herself would be proud of Alison, as would her grandfather the B-24 tailgunner. I love what she said about Texas... she is right. Michigan is a remarkable place: from the breathtaking wilderness beauty of the UP and Native American presence in our state, to Michigan's importance in early American history (how many national flags have flown over Detroit?), to the birth and rise the auto industry and our critical role in WWII. We have a culture of perseverance, unpretentiousness, and hard work, plus a world-class university, not to mention our well-known rep for providing the music world with a steady stream of influential musicians, from Aretha Franklin to Jack White. There really is magic here, let's be proud if it!


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

Great idea ! Love it, I hope it works, thank you young lady.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

Fantastic fundraising idea!


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 12:38 p.m.

Go, Alison! The potential loss of that huge piece of our local and national history is sad, so brava to you and many hopes that your effort is successful.

Boo Radley

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

Kudos to Ms. Beatty for her time and efforts. She had a great idea, and has put a lot of her own time into the cause. I hope it helps motivate more people to chip in. I also hope that the national news picks up on this story of her "Rosie" efforts and really gets the word out.


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:41 a.m.

"I had gotten hear earlier" Typo- here (sorry to nit pick)


Sat, Aug 3, 2013 : 10:17 a.m.

This explains what I saw the other day. I drove by Thursday and saw her and was a little freaked out because of the Rosie look. When I saw her she was not holding the sign up. Now that I know what she is doing, it make sense to me. Hopefully her actions will help get that historic property saved from the wrecking ball.