Helen Bowers Papers

Accession Number: 
LP001879
Extent: 
2.5 Linear Feet (5 MB)
Date: 
1934-1995, bulk 1947-1970

Helen Marie Newman Bowers was born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin on May 16, 1908. After graduating from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, she began teaching art in Detroit, Michigan in 1933 and quickly got involved with the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT), Local 231. She left the teaching profession in 1958 to become the executive secretary of the DFT. Together with DFT President Mary Ellen Riordan, Detroit teachers won collective bargaining in 1964. Helen Bowers won duty-free lunch hours for elementary teachers, and conceived of “demonstration picketing” before schools opened in the morning to raise awareness to the community about why teachers were demanding collective bargaining. Ms. Bowers served on the Executive Board and became editor of the DFT newspaper, The Detroit Teacher.

The papers of Helen Bowers reflect her work with the DFT and education reform initiatives. This involves pre-collective bargaining rights in dealing with academic freedom, civil liberties as well as a living wage for teachers. Communism files contain a thorough documentation of the Maki Case trial from clippings from the three Detroit newspapers. The collection also contains very useful information about how the union gained power after collective bargaining was won. Their influence in education issues is seen in issues about accountability, decentralization and student rights.

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