Celebrating the Legacy of Clarksville’s “Rosie the Riveter”

Rosie the Riveter

CLARKSVILLE, IN (September 19, 2022) – It was standing room only on Friday, September 16th as the Clarksville Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) hosted a special dedication ceremony in honor of Clarksville’s “Rosie the Riveter.”

Rose Will Monroe was a 22-year-old widow with two children when she set out from Kentucky, to a Ford Motor Company plant in Michigan, both to assist in the war effort and to feed her children. As Rose worked as a riveter building B-24 airplanes, Kay Kyser, the band leader, was introducing a song entitled “Rosie the Riveter” in celebration of the many women who were stepping up to join the war effort. When the famous actor Walter Pidgeon went to Willow Run to sign the B-24 being built in his honor, and looking for a backdrop for films encouraging the purchase of War Bonds, people he met there noted that they had their own Rosie the Riveter. That led to Monroe being showcased as Rosie the Riveter in those films. She moved to Clarksville after the war and married again. She raised another child, owned a prominent home construction company, drove a taxi, ran a beauty shop, and got her airplane pilot’s license.

To honor Rose Will Monroe and her connection to Clarksville, the Historic Preservation Commission started a crowdfunding effort to raise the funds needed to erect a statue in her honor. That campaign ended with more than 70 donors contributing a total of more than $130,000 for the project. $40,000 of that amount was thanks to a matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s Placemaking Indiana Initiative.

“It was just nine months ago that the Clarksville Town Council gave its blessing to the Commission to complete an art installation on the riverfront in celebration of Clarksville’s own Rosie the Riveter and the impact women made on this country during World War II,” said HPC President Lynn Lewis. “An impact that still reverberates today.”

Lewis says one of the HPC’s first priorities was to make sure the installation met the approval of Monroe’s family, so members of the HPC stayed in close contact with Monroe’s family through the entire process. Several of Rose Will Monroe’s family members attended Friday’s unveiling including Rose’s only living child, Vicki Will Croston. Rose’s granddaughter Cathy Avischious had this to say in an interview with WDRB news:

“We always knew that she was Rosie, but it was just part of who she was. She was a very nontraditional grandma in that, I don’t think she ever baked, she drove a convertible, and she taught my brother how to do donuts in the parking lot,” said Avischious. “She was just a wonderful, fun-loving, enjoyable person to be around. She was a spitfire.”

Family members said they loved the statue and that they appreciated the Town of Clarksville’s efforts in recognizing Rose for contributions to the local community as well as the rest of the country.

Clarksville Town Council President Ryan Ramsey addressed the crowd at the event not just as the leader of the Town, but as a member of the Historic Preservation Commission. An avid supporter of protecting and celebrating Clarksville’s history, Ramsey said it was long overdue to recognize Rose’s legacy.

“To this day, Rosie continues to represent the best characteristics that can be found within each one of us: determination, grit, courage; patriotism; the CAN-DO spirit,” said Ramsey. “Now, maybe more than ever before, our country needs figures like Rosie the Riveter. Individuals who, regardless of the political or ideological differences that may exist between one another, stand firm in the belief that we are all in this together.”

It is in that spirit that the Town of Clarksville and the HPC would like to thank everyone who donated to the project, but especially to our $10,000 donors including: Avant Garde, Samtec, SoIn Tourism, Realtor Pat Harrison, and UAW Local 862. Special thanks also to our $5,000 donors which includes: Cornerstone Group, Duke Energy, Lochmueller Group, Friends of the Ohio River Greenway, and the Redeford Family. Without your support, this art installation would not be possible.