Subject Focus: Women's History at the Reuther Library

Edith Christenson, Soviet Union, 1925

The Reuther Library celebrates Women’s History Month with a look at some of the significant collections housed in the library that deal with the role of women in the urban landscape in Southeast Michigan.

Edith L. Christenson held positions in the Women’s Trade Union League, the Chorus Equity Association, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs. The papers of Ms. Christenson document her work as a YMCA canteen worker during World War I and her involvement in the labor and cooperative movements and as an advocate for adult education. Of particular interest is a scrapbook documenting her travels around the world in 1925.

The Detroit Feminist Women’s Health Center Records reflect the national women’s health movement in the wake of Roe v. Wade. The Center provided gynecological services, pregnancy screening, nutritional counseling, prenatal care, and abortion and birth control services to women in a community-based, self-help atmosphere.

Eleanor Josaitis

The WSU Women's Resource Center Records highlight efforts to address the needs of women on the campus of Wayne State University from 1972 through 2003. The Center provided referral services, child care services, and resource information to students and staff and supported women re-entering school.

The records of Eleanor Josaitis, William Cunningham and Focus:HOPE reflect the efforts of one of the legendary partnerships in the history of Detroit to combat the social ills of poverty and racism. Focus: HOPE first gained national attention with its comparative survey of pricing, product quality and service in inner city and suburban grocery stores and pharmacies. Each of its initiatives over the years have benefited the women of Detroit.

Edith Van Horn

Toni Swanger was among the many social activists in and around Detroit from the 1950s through the 1990s who highlighted women’s issues using social media. She worked with the Detroit Women’s Radio Workshop as part of her career as a radio and print journalist. The Toni Swanger papers were among the first to be fully digitized by the Reuther Library and offered on our website.

Edith Van Horn was a long-time UAW member and social activist for women’s causes. Ms. Horn was a founding member of the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC), the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), and was active in various Detroit area committees addressing violence against women and urban housing issues. Her papers document the growth of the women’s movement in Detroit and nationally in the 1970s.

On the national as well as on the urban Detroit stage Millie Jeffrey may have been diminutive in physical size, but her role in promoting women in politics was enormous. Her papers reflect her commitment to women’s rights and to many different social causes.

This portrait of Millie Jeffrey hangs just outside the Reading Room at the Walter P. Reuther Library.

A former Governor of Wayne State University, her portrait is just outside the Reading Room of the Reuther Library.

The collections at the Reuther Library are so very rich in documenting the experiences of women in Detroit, in Michigan and around the United States. The few collections highlighted here are simply a small taste of what a visitor will find while using the Reuther Library. Why not use Women’s History Month as your reason to visit and learn more?

William LeFevre, CA, CRM, is the Reference Archivist for the Walter P. Reuther Library.