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Mildred Jeffrey Papers

Identifier: LP000300

Scope and Content

Part I: The papers of Mildred Jeffrey consist of correspondence, reports, minutes, speeches, UAW convention materials, clippings, articles, and political, labor, and feminist publications. Related material may be found in the UAW Community Relations Department: Mildred Jeffrey Collection. A transcript of an oral interview with Mildred Jeffrey may be found in the 20th Century Trade Union Woman series of oral histories on deposit at the Reuther Library.

Important subjects in the collection: Abortion Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Automobile industry workers--Michigan Child care--United States Civil rights--Michigan Civil rights--United States Consumer affairs--United States Consumer protection--United States Democratic Party Discrimination in employment--United States Equal pay for equal work--United States Equal Rights Amendment--United States Feminism--United States National Organization for Women National Women’s Political Caucus Political activists--Michigan Political parties--Michigan Politics--Michigan Pro-choice movement Recreation--United States Sex discrimination against women Students for a Democratic Society Trade-unions and education--United States Trade-unions--Automobile industry workers--United States Trade-unions--Clothing workers--United States Trade-unions--Organizing--United States United Automobile Workers.--Women’s Bureau Wayne State University (Detroit, Mich.) Board of Governors Women automobile industry workers Women in politics--Michigan Women in politics--United States Women in the labor movement--United States Women in trade-unions--United States Women labor leaders--Michigan Women--Employment-United States Women’s rights--Michigan Women’s rights--Societies, etc. Women’s rights--United States Working class--Education--United States Working class women--United States Youth--Employment--United States World War, 1939-1945--Women workers

Important correspondents in the collection: Bella Abzug Irving Bluestone Franz Daniel Charles C. Diggs, Jr. John Dingell Douglas Fraser Martha Griffiths Adelaide Hart Philip A. Hart Newman Jeffrey Lady Bird Johnson Odessa Komer Olga Madar Barbara Mikulski Joyce Miller Margaret Price Roy Reuther Victor Reuther Walter Reuther Patricia Schroeder Adlai Stevenson Edie Van Horn G. Mennen Williams Nancy Williams Leonard Woodcock

Series Description: Series I, Women’s Issues, 1944-1983 Series II, Political Activities, 1933-1984 Series III, Labor, 1918-1983 Series IV, Personal and General Subject Files, 1914-1983
Part II: Important Subjects: Abortion Americans for Democratic Action Automobile industry workers--Michigan Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan Civil rights--Michigan Civil rights--United States Coalition of Labor Union Women Democratic National Committee Democratic Party--Michigan Democratic Party—United States Discrimination in employment--United States Education Election campaigns—Michigan Election campaign—United States Equal pay for equal work Equal Rights Amendment Feminism--United States Health care--Michigan Michigan Peer Review Organization Michigan Women’s Foundation National Abortion Rights Action League National Organization for Women National Women’s Political Caucus Political activists--Michigan Politics--Michigan Pro-choice movement Reproductive rights Sex discrimination against women Trade unions--Automobile industry workers--United States United Automobile Workers United Nations World Conference on Women Voters for Choice Wayne State University Women for a Meaningful Summit Women in politics--Michigan Women in politics--United States Women in the labor movement--United States Women in trade unions--United States Women labor leaders--Michigan Women--Employment-United States Women’s rights--Michigan Women’s rights--Societies, etc. Women’s rights--United States

Important Correspondents: Bella Abzug David Adamany James Blanchard Hillary Clinton Michael Dukakis Geraldine Ferraro Jennifer Granholm Hubert Humphrey Edward Kennedy Madeleine Kunin Carl Levin Olga Madar Ellen Malcolm Lana Pollack Eleanor Roosevelt Pierre Salinger Arthur Schlesinger Patricia Schroeder Sargent Shriver Debbie Stabenow Gloria Steinem Harry S. Truman Mary Vorse G. Mennen Williams

Series Description: Series 1: Personal files, 1920s-2004: Includes correspondence, memorabilia, awards and honors, personal clippings, speeches, notes, directories and address lists, notebooks, calendars, yearbooks,

Series 2: General subject files, 1950s-2004: Includes political and social issues, people, conferences, events, publications (articles, newsletters, newspapers, monographs)

Series 3: Organizations, 1950s-2004: Box 113 contains oversize and non-manuscript materials.

Series 4: Audio-visual materials, 1950s-2004


  • 1920 - 2004
  • Majority of material found within 1950 - 1979

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


Part I: Mildred “Millie” Jeffrey was born in Alton, Iowa on December 29, 1910 into a family of independent, hardworking women. Her grandmother ran the family farm and raised sixteen children after her husband died. Her mother, Bertha McWilliams, who raised Milly, the oldest, and six other children, became Iowa's first female registered pharmacist in 1908 and owned a drugstore in Alton and later in Minneapolis.

Ms. Jeffrey's campaign against social injustice began in 1928 when she joined the left-leaning Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the YWCA while a student at the University of Minnesota. The Y, which organized interracial dances, hosted controversial speakers, and attempted to integrate restaurants, had a reputation as one of the most radical student groups on campus. After graduating in 1932, she attended Bryn Mawr College, receiving a master’s degree from the Department of Social Economy and Social Research in 1934.

She worked for the next year as a special investigator for the National Recovery Administration and then took a job organizing for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in Philadelphia, trying to recruit as many millworkers as possible before the inevitable firing or arrest. Eventually, she became educational director of the Pennsylvania Joint Board of Shirt Workers. In 1936, she married fellow Amalgamated organizer Homer Newman Jeffrey, and the two of them traveled throughout the South and East organizing textile workers. During World War II, the Jeffreys both worked in Washington as consultants to the War Labor Board, where they became close friends with the Reuther brothers.

When Mildred and Newman Jeffrey moved to Detroit in 1944, Victor Reuther offered her a job as director of the newly formed UAW Women's Bureau; she reluctantly accepted only after a neighbor agreed to care for her two young children. As the UAW’s first female department head, Mildred Jeffrey gained a forum for her lifelong commitment to equal rights for women not only in society and the workplace, but in the union as well. She organized the first UAW women’s conference in response to the massive postwar layoffs of women production workers replaced by returning veterans. From 1949 until 1954, she ran the union's radio station, after which she moved on to direct the Community Relations Department. Her last post with the UAW was as Director of the Consumer Affairs Department from 1968 until her retirement in 1976.

Mildred Jeffrey had been active in Democratic Party politics from the time she arrived in Detroit, serving as a precinct delegate, state central committee member, and national committeewoman. Preferring to spend her energy on the grunt work of politics -- leafleting, organizing, telephone canvassing, and fundraising -- she did not run for public office until 1974, when she was elected to the Wayne State University Board of Governors, an office she held for sixteen years.

Her commitment to equal rights for women and minorities did not abate after her retirement from the UAW in 1976. As early as 1948 she began campaigning for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. As a founding member and chair of the National Women's Political Caucus, NOW’s political arm, she supported female candidates for public office and was an original board member of the Michigan Women's Foundation. In seeking social justice and equality for all people, Mildred Jeffrey has spent a lifetime in committee and organizational work on behalf of civil rights, education, health care, youth employment, and recreation issues.
Part II: This second part of the papers of Mildred Jeffrey contains documents primarily from the last 30 years of her life, from the 1970s until 2004. During those years, Jeffrey became an activist in the many social and political movements of the time, including women’s rights, civil rights, reproductive rights and peace. Her papers include documents and correspondence from the many organizations in which she was involved as well as wide-ranging correspondence with family, friends, colleagues and notable persons, including politicians, several presidents and members of the Kennedy family. Jeffrey served as a member of the Michigan Democratic Party State Central Committee and the Democratic National Committee and was actively involved in the campaigns of many state and national candidates, including presidential and congressional races, particularly supporting women candidates. On the national level, Jeffrey was a delegate to eight presidential nominating conventions and played a key role in convincing Walter Mondale to name Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate in 1984. In Michigan, Jeffrey was a crucial actor in the campaigns of Debbie Stabenow, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and Jennifer Granholm, among others.

Jeffrey played major leadership roles in the National Women’s Political Caucus (founder and president), the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Americans for Democratic Action, the National Abortion Rights Action League, the Michigan Women’s Foundation and many other organizations. She was elected to the Board of Governors of Wayne State University in 1974 and served for sixteen years, including three as board chairperson. Other organizations for which she served as a board member include the Michigan Peer Review Organization, Merrill Palmer Institute, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan and the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. Beginning in the 1970s, Jeffrey traveled widely as a speaker, organizer and delegate for many national and international labor and women’s conferences, including the UN World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. Her numerous recognitions and awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded by President Bill Clinton), an honorary degree from Ohio Wesleyan University, and awards from the ACLU, the ADA, the Detroit Urban League, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges and many other organizations. She received many achievement awards, including those from the Anti-Defamation League, the Michigan Women’s Foundation, NOW, and the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. Documents from these organizations, events and Jeffrey’s travels are included in this collection.


115 Linear Feet (110 SB, 2 MB, 2 OS)


Mildred Jeffrey worked as an organizer for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, as Educational Director of the Pennsylvania Joint Board of Shirt Workers, as a consultant to the War Labor Board, as Director of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Women’s Bureau, and as Director for UAW Community Relations and Consumer Affairs Departments. Ms. Jeffrey was also active in the Democratic Party and was a founding member and chair of the National Organization of Women’s (NOW) political arm, the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Part 1 of Ms. Jeffrey’s papers document her extensive work for women’s rights and the labor movement and reflect her commitment to social justice. Part 2 primarily documents the last 30 years of her life during which Jeffrey became an activist in the many social and political movements of the time, including women’s rights, civil rights, reproductive rights and peace.


Part I: Arranged in 4 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-10), Series 2 (Boxes 10-38), Series 3 (Boxes 39-55), and Series 4 (Boxes 55-62).

PLEASE NOTE: Folders are computer-arranged alphabetically within each series in this finding aid, but may actually be dispersed throughout several boxes in the collection. Note carefully the box number for each folder heading.
Part II: Arranged in 4 series - Series 1 (Boxes 63-78), Series 2 (Boxes 79-91), Series 3 (boxes 92-114), and Series 4 (Boxes 114-115). Folders in each series are simply listed by their location in each box. They are not arranged, so that any given subject may be dispersed throughout several boxes within each series.


Part II: Materials were deposited in several installments from 1995-2004.

Related Materials

UAW Community Relations: Mildred Jeffrey Records; Newman Jeffrey Papers; Jewish Labor Committee Records, 20th Century Trade Union Women Oral Histories, all in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Reuther Library, Wayne State University.

National Women’s Political Caucus collection, Schlesinger Library, Harvard University.


Part I: A number of photographs, films, audio tapes, buttons, bumper stickers, and posters have been placed in the Archives Audiovisual Collection. A number of books and labor journals, including a bound volume of issues of The New Deal and The Sheboygan Times from April through December of 1936 have been transferred to the Archives Library.
Part II: Letters with original signatures of various presidents and other notable persons have been replaced with photocopies; original documents have been moved to the vault. 64

Audiovisual materials (Box 115) placed in the Reuther A-V Department include 3 audiocassettes, 2 micro cassettes, 2 videotapes and one CD.

Processing History

Part I: Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Guide to the Mildred Jeffrey Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA