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Clarksville to honor real-life Rosie the Riveter with monument

Clarksville has plans to dedicate a monument to a local woman who portrayed Rosie the River during World War II.
Clarksville Historic Preservation Commission
Clarksville has plans to dedicate a monument to a local woman who portrayed Rosie the River during World War II.

Clarksville is building a riverfront monument to a World War II icon.

Rosie the Riveter represented American women who stepped into the industrial workforce during the war. One of the best-known depictions of the character is the “We Can Do It!” poster, which shows a woman in a red bandana rolling up her sleeves and flexing her bicep.

That Rosie and other early versions were fictional. But Rose Will Monroe, who was born in Kentucky and spent her post-war life in Clarksville, became a face for the character after she appeared in a film to promote war bonds.

“She was really a very independent woman,” said Lynn Lewis, president of the Clarksville Historic Preservation Commission. “She owned a construction company. She had a pilot's license. She did all kinds of things to not only support her family, but just to step out and be active in the community. When she passed away, she was buried in the cemetery in New Albany, and her tombstone reads ‘Rosie the Riveter.’”

Monroe left Kentucky with her two children after becoming a widow at 22. She found employment as a riveter at a Michigan factory that produced parts for the B24 bomber.

Rosie the Riveter was already a well-known character in the United States, and though she was meant to depict the women who worked in factories at the time, she wasn’t based on a single real-life counterpart. When a film producer learned of Monroe’s name and occupation, her likeness was used in propaganda films to support the war effort.

Last week, the Clarksville Historic Preservation Commission launched a crowdsourcing campaign to build a monument to honor Monroe along the Ohio River at Ashland Park.

“When you come down to the riverfront, you'll see Rosie standing there in her classic pose in a white frame with a bubble that says, ‘We Can Do It,’” Lewis said. “And you’ll be able to stand with Rosie for that statement that we can do it. We can do it as a community, we can do it as a nation and women can do it.”

If the commission reaches its goal of $40,000, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority will match that funding through its CreatINg Places program.

Lewis said the town kicked off its crowdsourcing effort to coincide with Women’s History Month.

“We want to get young women and girls involved when we get to get ready to install this statue because we believe that women have made a difference all along,” Lewis said. “It wasn't just World War II.”

Lynn said she expects the commission to hit its funding goal by the end of the month. The statue could be finished by mid-September.

John Boyle is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. John's coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County, Community Foundation of Southern Indiana and Samtec, Inc.

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