Catherine "Babe" Gelles and Shelton Tappes Oral History

In the fall of 1983 Professor James Moore recorded an oral history interview with Shelton Tappes and Catherine "Babe" Gelles, both early organizers for the United Auto Workers Union (UAW). Taped in Tappes’ Detroit home, the interviewees gave firsthand account of 1937's "Battle of the Overpass," a brutal response by members of the Ford Service Department to the UAW organizing effort against Ford Motor Company. The interview lends offers two different vantage points: Gelles’, as that of a member of the UAW's Women's Auxiliary, and Tappes’ as that of a Ford Employee and early Black organizer. Their testimony includes description of brutal assaults on organizers that occurred at the hands of Ford Servicemen, including Walter Reuther, Richard Frankensteen, and Gelles herself; demonstrated anti-union bias by the Dearborn Police Department; description of triage set up in the union hall to attend to the wounded; and UAW organizing efforts that followed the event. The interview was recorded for use in Mass Producing Fords, a documentary for the United Kingdom’s Open University.

Courtesy: James Moore Audio Recordings.

Please note: Due to the personal nature of oral history, the Library prohibits use of the material in any way that infringes on individual right to privacy, or results in libelous statements or slander, in accordance with U.S. law.