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Maryann Mahaffey Papers

Identifier: UP001514

Scope and Content

The Maryann Mahaffey Papers contain materials from Mahaffey’s college years through her death in 2006. The 7 series of these papers are organized by areas of focus in Mahaffey’s life, namely:

Series 1: Career, 1946-2005 Subseries 1A: Early work Subseries 1B: Detroit City Council Subseries 1C: Wayne State University, School of Social Work Series 2: Elections and campaigns, 1968-2005 Series 3: Miscellaneous files, 1960-1993 Series 4: Organizations and involvement, 1963-2003 Subseries 4A: Maryann Mahaffey Subseries 4B: Herman 'Hy' Dooha Series 5: Personal files, 1944-2006 Series 6: Speeches, writings, and publications, 1945-2003 Subseries 6A: Speeches and testimony Subseries 6B: Writings Subseries 6C: Publications Series 7: Subject files, 1962-2001

The Career series covers Mahaffey’s 59 year-long work career, beginning with working at the YWCA in Seattle, continuing with her first job, after obtaining her master's in social work degree, with the Girl Scouts of America in Indianapolis, her subsequent social work in Chicago and Detroit before becoming a Professor at Wayne State University School of Social Work and her election to the Detroit City Council. To better organize the records from this long career, this series contains three subseries: Early career; Detroit City Council; Wayne State University School of Social Work. The Early career subseries encompasses all Mahaffey’s work before her election to Detroit City Council and her teaching at Wayne State University. During this time, she worked with Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Girl Scouts of America, Merrill Palmer, Erie Neighborhood House and United Cerebral Palsy, and Brightmoor Community Center. The Detroit City Council subseries contains files relating to Mahaffey’s 32 years of work on the Detroit City Council and includes information on casinos, an anti-surveillance ordinance, the budget, Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, housing, events for Detroit and Toyota (Japan) as sister cities, among many other topics. Correspondence, detailed notes on meetings and phone calls including some transcripts, personal calendars, and resolutions are all present in this subseries. The Wayne State University, School of Social Work subseries contains Mahaffey’s work as a WSU Professor from 1965-1990. Documents from this time show her influence on the social work curriculum, both at a program-wide level and through her class teaching materials. Papers in this subseries also include organizational analyses and detailed accounts of social service organizations located throughout Metro Detroit written by students completing field practicums.

The Elections and campaigns series contains files on Mahaffey’s various political activity including her many campaigns for Detroit City Council, but also her run for U.S. Congress in 1982 against Sander Levin. There is a small amount of information on campaigns for other Michigan politicians Mahaffey knew including Carl Levin and Erma Henderson.

The Miscellaneous files series is where folders reside that contain a mixture of information from all areas of Mahaffey’s life and are too interfiled to feasibly separate. This includes topics found in all the other series in this collection.

The Organizations and involvement series is divided into two subseries: Maryann Mahaffey; Herman ‘Hy’ Dooha. The Maryann Mahaffey subseries includes the materials and records kept on Mahaffey’s involvement outside of her work and paid career. Mahaffey was involved in many social work focused organizations including the American Orthopsychiatric Association (AOA), Michigan Social Work Council, National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). She held various elected office positions in all of these organizations and was responsible for shaping policy and furthering equality. Through her work with these groups she also traveled to annual meetings and conferences around the country and internationally. Outside of social work organizations Mahaffey was also involved in the National League of Cities, legislative conferences, attempts to create a citizens police trial board in Detroit in the late 1960s, Group Health Plan of Michigan, and Statewide Health Coordination Council. Mahaffey was also very involved in groups supporting peace and women’s political caucuses, particularly in Michigan. The Herman ‘Hy’ Dooha subseries includes material on work and organizational involvement of Mahaffey’s husband. Dooha worked for, and assisted, a number of non-profit and socially conscious groups, often helping with financial and treasury work. Some of these organizations are: Children’s Orthogenic School, Community Help in Life Development (CHILD), the Detroit Teacher’s Credit Union, Fund for Access to Integrated Residences (FAIR), Ferndale Co-op, Inc., Greater Detroit Memorial Society, New Detroit, Inc., Operation Friendship, the Urban Alliance, and SANE/Freeze. He was also involved in local Democratic political groups.

The Personal files series contains materials on the more personal areas of Mahaffey’s life from family genealogy to birthday celebrations. This series also contains documents from Cornell College, graduate school at the University of Southern California, and correspondence. This correspondence shows great insight into Mahaffey’s life over the years, particularly regarding her time working at a World War II internment camp – Poston Relocation Center and her life living in Seattle while working for the YWCA, after graduating from college. These years shaped a lot of Mahaffey’s value of equality and strong determination to work towards ending discrimination. Scrapbooks and a collection of awards and honors bestowed on Mahaffey are also found in this series.

The Speeches, writings, publications series contains 3 subseries: Speeches and testimony; Writings; Publications. In the Speeches and testimony subseries, one will find the speeches and testimony Mahaffey provided for a variety of events and audiences ranging from college graduations ceremonies to U.S. Congress. Topics include politics and social work, Full Employment Act, women and politics, aging, food stamps, hunger and nutrition, labor, education, substance abuse, public service, U.S. policy towards Central America, domestic violence, Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Soviet Union relations, homelessness, affirmative action, among many others. The Writings subseries contains papers, articles, and reports written by Mahaffey on topics of community centers, her visit to Chile during the reign of Pinochet, social work book introductions, a book she co-edited with John Hanks Practical Politics: Social work and political responsibility, and other social work-related works. The Publications subseries contains various collected publications Mahaffey subscribed to and read including Detroit newspapers, National Association of Social Workers newsletters, Pacific Citizen newspaper, Southern Patriot newspaper. This subseries also includes publications from Cornell College, published Y-teens materials from the YWCA, a labor history guide of Detroit, and miscellaneous other publications.

The Subject files series contains files on topics of interest to Mahaffey. The materials in this series could closely related to her work and organizational involvement but the connections are not always clear, so they have been placed in their own series. The topics included in this series are largely focused on social work, Detroit, countries in social crisis like Chile and El Salvador, hunger and malnutrition, migrant workers, peace, politics, race, unions, women, youth, and welfare reform. The Detroit specific topics include Detroit City charter revision, poverty, recreation, and decentralizing Detroit Public Schools.


  • 1944 - 2006


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.


Maryann Mahaffey was born on January 18, 1925 in Burlington, Iowa to Kent and Margaret ‘Nell’ [Widener] Mahaffey. Mahaffey’s older brother was also named Kent. While she was attending Cornell College, she decided to spend the summer of 1945 working as a Recreation Director at Poston Internment Camp in Arizona. This work was sponsored by the National Intercollegiate Christian Council and this experience had a profound effect on Mahaffey in regard to fighting against discrimination and helping people in need. After graduating college in 1946, Mahaffey moved to Seattle to work for the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) the first U.S. national organization to commit to end internal segregation and work towards ending racial injustice, which appealed to Mahaffey. She worked there as a Teenage Program Director.

In 1949, Mahaffey began graduate school in a social work program at the University of Southern California, specializing in group work. It was in this social work program that she met her husband, Herman “Hy” Dooha who she married in June 1950. Both Maryann and Hy graduated with a degree in Social Work in 1951 and moved first to Indianapolis for one year after she accepted a job with the Girl Scouts of America as a District and Training Director and also serving as a Field Work Instructor for a student attending the University of Indiana School of Social Work. As part of her work, she developed the first integrated Brownie troop and day camp in Indianapolis. Shortly thereafter, Hy and Maryann moved to Detroit where she continued to work with the Girl Scouts of America as Field Staff Supervisor, but was removed from her position in 1954, due in part to issues arising from Maryann’s use of her maiden name and concern with race relations, among other reasons. Over the next two years she worked with the Merrill-Palmer Institute with some time off when she her daughter Susan was born. In 1956 Maryann and Hy moved to Chicago and after a few months Mahaffey began work on a project with Erie Neighborhood House and United Cerebral Palsy Association to provide service to severely cerebral palsied adults. Returning to Detroit, Mahaffey began work with the Brightmoor Community Center as a program director in 1959, where she worked until 1963 to create a tenants’ council and employed the first black professional staff, among other accomplishments. With a growing awareness and interest in foster care, Mahaffey worked at the Merrill Palmer Institute from 1963-1965 as Social Service Director for the Detroit Foster Home Project for Emotionally Disturbed Boys and continued to serve as an Administrative Consultant for this project from 1965-1967.

In 1965, Maryann Mahaffey also began teaching at Wayne State University in the School of Social Work. From 1965 until her retirement in 1990, she taught a variety of classes on topics including methodology, community work, community planning, policy development, and coordinated first-year community social work curriculum from 1966-1974 in which she supervised field placements at social work and social service organizations in the Metro Detroit area. In these years working for Wayne State, Mahaffey also was on the Faculty Council from 1970-1973 and served as School of Social Work Faculty Chairperson from 1968-1969. During the summer of 1968, she was appointed as a consultant to the Mayor of Detroit on parks, recreation, and social services. Mahaffey used this experience to initiate the creation of a Mayor’s Task Force on Malnutrition and Hunger, which she also chaired.

Beginning her engagement with local politics, Mahaffey ran for Wayne County Commissioner in 1970, during the campaign her opponent questioned the legality of Mahaffey using her maiden name on the ballot rather than her married name. Though she did not end up winning this election, she did win a court case in the Michigan Supreme Court that set a legal precedent allowing women to use their maiden name in elections for public office. She did successfully win the election 3 years later when she ran for Detroit City Council (known as the Detroit Common Council at the time) in 1973. She continued to serve on the Council until 2005, including serving as President from 1990-1998 and 2002-2005. During her decades on Council Mahaffey focused on health care, poverty, children, housing, mental health, homelessness, among other important issues. Some of her accomplishments included creating the city’s first rape crisis unit within the police department, expanding the city’s healthcare benefits to include gay couples, ordinances on sexual harassment, homeless shelters, handgun safety training, banning smoking in city-owned buildings, opening the Detroit Athletic Club to women, creating an ordinance explaining and prohibiting sexual harassment of city employees, and chairing the Council’s Housing Task Force. Closely linked to Mahaffey’s service to Detroit as a member of the city council, she joined and was an active member of the National League of Cities, which she served on the board of from 1994-1996. Active outside of her city council duties, Mahaffey participated in a number of social work focused organizations. She was a member of the Michigan Social Work Council which merged with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). She chaired the MSWC from 1965-1967, worked as a legislative lobbyist from 1965-1968, and helped create a graduate internship program, as well as worked to pass a social workers registration law. Mahaffey served on the Executive Committee from 1973-1977 and became the first female elected President of NASW from 1975-1977. During her Presidential tenure a conference was held on social workers in politics, she established the First Task Force on Gay Issues, instituted a Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE) Committee that endorsed and contributed financially to candidates who supported social work, and helped with the creation of an affirmative action policy. Mahaffey also began to actively participate with social workers internationally through the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). Some of her service to this organization included writing an international policy on women that was adopted in 1987 and acting as a representative of IFSW at events around the world. In this capacity Mahaffey attended a U.N. Conference on the Status of Women in Mexico (1975) and visited Chile to investigate the social service conditions under the reign of Pinochet (1978). Mahaffey co-chaired the 1984 IFSW Conference in Montreal and, in this same period Mahaffey served as President of the American Orthopsychiatry Association (AOA), another important organization that she was an active member in for many years. Another big contribution to the field of social work was the book Mahaffey co-edited entitled Practical Politics: Social Work and Political Responsibility published in 1982.

Over the course of her life, Mahaffey showed a long-term interest in health and nutrition. In addition to the Mayor’s Task Force on Hunger and Malnutrition that she organized in the late 1960s, she also provided testimony on numerous occasions regarding mental health, physical health, and nutrition, became a member of a number of relevant organizations, and attended conferences on various health related subjects. The Coalition for Better Health Care was one of the groups she joined, and chaired, that focused on helping poor individuals retain access to health care. She also helped found, and chair, the Michigan Statewide Nutrition Commission which led to a Michigan law mandating school breakfast programs.

Mahaffey also showed a strong commitment to women and women in politics over the course of her career. When the Women’s Political Caucus was founded in 1971, Mahaffey attended the founding convention as a Michigan delegate. She helped found Women in Social Welfare, and served as a steering committee member from 1972-1974. She was also a member of Women in Municipal Government, of which she served as President in 1995. This same year she chaired the Michigan delegation to the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing. Mahaffey also served as a co-chair of the Detroit Women in AIDS Project. In addition to this involvement, Mahaffey attended multiple international conferences on the status of women.

Peace and ending discrimination were other important beliefs of Mahaffey and her husband as evidenced by the organizations and causes they supported. Mahaffey’s drive for peace is evidence early by her participation in circulating a ban the bomb petition in Los Angeles during grad school. Mahaffey and her husband also both attended the World Assembly on Peace and Nuclear Disarmament in Prague in 1983. Stemming from her early experience at Poston Relocation Camp, Mahaffey maintained an interest in the rights of Japanese Americans over the course of her life and even was a life member of the Japanese American Citizens League. Always fighting for the rights of others, police arrested Mahaffey twice in her life for civil disobedience, once in 1985 while protesting apartheid outside of the South African Embassy in in Washington D.C. and the second time during the Detroit Newspaper Strike in 1996. In attempting to diminish discrimination, Mahaffey also worked at this issue from a political perspective as a Founding Committee and Executive Committee member for Urban Alliance which sought to endorse minority candidates for office from 1968-1970. For her work supporting gay rights, Mahaffey was made an honorary Board Member of Triangle Foundation (now Equality Michigan) a LGBTQ anti-violence and political advocacy organization. In these, and through many other efforts Mahaffey worked to support human rights, civil rights, and peace.

Maryann Mahaffey was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2005 and passed away due to health complications on July 27, 2006. Surviving her are her husband Hy and daughter Susan. Hy graduated with a Ph.D. in 1969 from University of Michigan School of Social Work with a discipline in economics. He worked for and volunteered with a number of social service organizations often utilizing his degrees in social work and specialization in finance to handle finances as a controller or treasurer. This included organizations like Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Citizens for Better Care (Board of Directors President), and New Detroit, Inc. Susan works as Executive Director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY) an organization seeking to break down barriers for equal opportunity for people with disabilities.


76 Linear Feet ((62 SB, 1 MB, 5 OS) )


Maryann Mahaffey was born on January 18, 1925 in Burlington, Iowa to Kent and Margaret ‘Nell’ [Widener] Mahaffey. Mahaffey’s older brother was also named Kent. While she was attending Cornell College, she decided to spend the summer of 1945 working as a Recreation Director at Poston Internment Camp in Arizona. This work had a profound effect on Mahaffey in regard to fighting against discrimination and helping people in need. After obtaining masters degrees in social work from the University of Southern California, Mahaffey and her husband moved briefly in Indianapolis before moving to Detroit. Mahaffey worked with organizations like Young Woman's Christian Association (YWCA), Girl Scouts of America, Merrill Palmer Institute, and Brightmoor Community Center before becoming involved in local politics. After working as a consultant to the Mayor of Detroit on parks, recreation, and social services, Mahaffey initiated and chaired the Mayor's Task Force on Malnutrition and Hunger before running for Wayne County Commissioner in 1970. Though she did not win the election for this position, she did win a Michigan Supreme Court case setting a legal precedent for married women running for public office with their maiden name. In 1973, Mahaffey ran for Detroit City Council and won, she served on the city council until 2005. Active outside of her council work, Mahaffey also taught as a Professor at Wayne State University School of Social Work as well as participating in many social work and positive social force organizations. She played important roles in the Michigan Social Work Council, National Association of Social Workers (NASW) including being their first elected female President, and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). Mahaffey also focused heavily on organization promoting peace, women in politics, health, and equality. Mahaffey was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2005 and passed away on July 27, 2006 due to health complications.

This collection contains materials with a heavy emphasis on the city of Detroit, as well as social work and social service organizations. From Mahaffey's numerous decades on the Detroit City Council, there are detailed notes, correspondence, and reports relating to the daily work was involved in including city budget, casinos, an anti-surveillance ordinance, housing, and many other subjects of focus. This collection also contains materials related to her teaching at Wayne State University including detailed information on social service organizations in Metro Detroit. Other important elements of this collection relate to her experience working at Poston, the many organizations Mahaffey played an active role in running and organizing, and the speeches, testimony, and writing she did covering the broad range of her experience and interests.


Arranged in 7 series - Series 1 (Boxes 1-27), Series 2 (Boxes 27-30), Series 3 (31-35), Series 4 (Boxes 35-52), Series 5 (Boxes 52-54, 65-68), Series 6 (Boxes 54-59), Series 7 (Boxes 59-64).

Series 1 and 6 are further divided into 3 subseries each, and Series 4 is further divided into 2 subseries.

The majority of the Mahaffey Papers are arranged alphabetically. There are some small deviations where a file fits with a group topically and rather than shift the folder or change the folder name it was left in its original location. There are also some series and subseries that are arranged chronologically to better make sense of the content in those sections. The following are arranged chronologically: Series 1, Subseries A: Early career; Series 2: Elections and campaigns; Series 6, Subseries A: Speeches and testimony; and Series 6, Subseries B: Writings.


The Maryann Mahaffey Papers were donated to the Walter P. Reuther Library between 1992 and 2007.


Audio-visual materials have been separated from the collection and can be found in Maryann Mahaffey Audio-Visual Material.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Shae Rafferty on October 24, 2018.
Guide to the Maryann Mahaffey Papers
Processed by Shae Rafferty.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA