The Way It Was


Published:

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE BURTON HISTORICAL COLLECTION, DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY

1932​The name “Housewives’ League of Detroit” may conjure up quaint images of genteel tea parties, leisurely bridge games, and gossipy luncheons, or it might sound to others like a racy contemporary reality show. In truth, the role of this organization, founded in 1930, couldn’t have been more distant from either assumption. The group was composed of activist African-American housewives, whose simple but steadfast resolve was to promote the patronage of black-owned businesses and, as a result, the employment of more African-Americans, which was particularly vital after the 1929 stock market crash. The Housewives also encouraged shopping at white-owned companies that didn’t discriminate against blacks in their hiring practices. “Don’t buy where you can’t work” was their mantra. Another slogan, according to a 1949 calendar directory, was “Buy, Boost, Build.” The Housewives’ League of Detroit was founded by Fannie Peck, wife of the Rev. William Peck, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He also started the Booker T. Washington Trade Association, the inspiration for the Housewives’ group. According to a 1948 Michigan Chronicle article, Fannie started the organization at her home with 50 prospective members. She soon stirred up interest in other U.S. cities, which formed their own chapters. In 1933, a national committee was formed, the National Housewives’ League of America, Inc., which elected Fannie as its first president. Still, the germ of the economically empowering idea was planted in Detroit and grew from here. Pictured are four members of the Detroit group in the early 1930s. A more egalitarian and embracing hiring climate, together with an aging membership, spelled the end of the Housewives’ organization in the mid-’90s, but by then their mark had been stamped.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Inside Detroit Mercy's Civil Rights 'Immersion' Course

The program is taking students to iconic sites in three southern states

An Hour With... Steve Neavling

Aka the Motor City Muckraker

Essay: Why Being an 'Ally' Can Be More Complicated Than You May Think

Even good intentions can miss the mark

Why Your Next Wood Project Should Be Made Out of These Salvaged City Trees

Ann Arbor's Urbanwood Project is taking the reclaimed lumber trend to the next level

New Cranbrook Exhibit Remembers Keith Haring

The show comes 30 years after the contemporary artist's visit to Bloomfield Hills
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Excellence in Care: Beaumont Health
    Hour Detroit presented Beaumont Health with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary...
  2. Excellence in Care: St. Joseph Mercy
    Hour Detroit presented St. Joseph Mercy with an Excellence in Care Award for extraordinary...
  3. Pinot Blanc: The Charming Cousin
    Traditionally derided or ignored, this varietal is attracting a swell in interest at Michigan...
  4. Michigan's Microbrew Scene is Stocked with Some Edgy Labels
    But when does clever cross the line?
  5. The Sky’s the Limit
    Pilot opens second winery location in Irish Hills
  6. Excellence in Care: DMC
    Hour Detroit presented the DMC with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary medical...
  7. Excellence in Care: McLaren Macomb
    Hour Detroit presented McLaren Macomb with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary...
  8. Excellence in Care: Henry Ford Health System
    Hour Detroit presented Henry Ford Health System with an Excellence in Care Award for this...