Dorothy Bolden was a Civil Rights activist who advocated for fair wages and better working conditions for domestic workers, many of whom were excluded from labor protections due to their race and gender. She knew these challenges well. Via dwherstories.com:
“Dorothy Bolden began doing domestic work alongside her mother, at age 9, in Atlanta, Georgia. Her first job was washing diapers after school for $1.25 per week in the 1930s.”
Created by The New York Historical Society Teen Leaders, in collaboration with the Untold project, this is the story of how Dorothy Bolden unionized domestic workers “and created noticeable change in the workplace for thousands of Black women.”
“In her 42-year career as a domestic worker, Bolden challenged racial discrimination as she sought to secure economic self-sufficiency. She was an active member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She was also a neighbor of Martin Luther King Jr., a critical figure in Atlanta’s civil rights movement. As a mother of six, Bolden’s primary focus was to uplift her community.”
In 1968, she founded the National Domestic Workers Union of America (NDWUA), and though it was neither national nor an official union, the organization quickly became a force for change. Bolden, who talked with domestic workers during their bus commutes to work and back, built an Atlanta-based community that, by 1970, was 10,000 strong.
And they were all registered to vote, which made the organization a political force for workers’ rights. From the New-York Historical Society:
“As Dorothy predicted, the better domestic workers felt and were compensated, the more likely it was that they cared about other issues… Elected officials in Georgia knew they needed Dorothy’s approval to gain votes of Black women. Dorothy’s reputation in politics and labor reform even reached the national level. During her career, she counseled presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan.”
Related stories: NYHS’ Women and the American Story Video Library and UntoldHistory.org.
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