Skip to main content

Stanley and Margaret Collingwood Nowak Papers

Identifier: LP000003


Part 1: Stanley Nowak was born in Przemysl, Poland, in 1903. He emigrated to the United States with his sister in 1913 and joined his father in Chicago. After leaving school at the age of fourteen, Nowak worked on a Polish newspaper in Chicago and involved himself in activities in the Polish community. With the coming of the Depression, he lost his job in Chicago. He moved to various places, including Detroit and South Bend, Indiana, before eventually settling in Detroit in 1933. He eventually obtained a job as a union organizer for the United Automobile Workers in 1936. In this capacity, he was involved in the sit down strikes at the American Aluminum Company in 1936 and helped in the organization of the employees at the Ternstedt Manufacturing Company. He met Margaret Collingwood during this time, and they were married in 1935. After obtaining his citizenship in 1938, Nowak was elected to the Michigan Senate from the twenty-first district on the Democratic ticket. He was re-elected four times, serving a total of ten years. His Senate career was marked by his work for the labor unions, minority rights, old age assistance, and other welfare measures. In late 1942, Nowak was accused of having fraudulently obtained his citizenship by not admitting on his papers that he had been a member of the Communist Party. The charge was dropped in early 1943. Nowak left the Senate in 1948 to run for other offices and to devote more time to his union activities. In 1952, just before the implementation of the Walter-McCarran Act, Nowak was again indicted for falsifying his naturalization papers, virtually the same charge as was filed in 1942. This time, the case went to court and Nowak's citizenship was ordered revoked in 1955. Appeals were made all the way to the Supreme Court, where the decision was reversed in 1958. Since that time, Nowak has been the editor of The People's Voice (Glos Ludowy), a Polish weekly newspaper to which he also frequently contributes articles. He has also continued to make some speaking engagements. Margaret Collingwood Nowak was born in Hartford, Wash, in 1908, one of six children. Her family moved to the Detroit area to obtain employment in the auto industry, and she graduated from Northern High School in 1931. She furthered her education by attending business schools and the University of Michigan Extension Center, studying economics and labor history. She became involved in union organizing and political activity, and through this, met her husband, Stanley Nowak in 19 32. They were married in 1935 and had one child, Elisa, in 1939 Mrs. Nowak served as her husband's secretary while he was a State Senator. She also became involved in politics in her own right when she campaigned for the U. S. House of Representatives in 1952 on the Progressive Party ticket. From 1957 until 1973, Mrs. Nowak was the head bookkeeper for the Detroit law firm which handled her husband's defense in the 1952 indictment. Since her retirement, she has been involved in writing a biography of her husband, an early draft of which is included in the collection. She has also continued to work with her husband and has become very interested in Women's studies, writing a series of articles on Feminists for her husband's paper. Part 2: The papers provide examples of literature authored by Margaret Nowak including descriptive impressions of Poland and a series of biographical sketches on American women. In addition, background information of a general nature regarding such varied topics as depression work relief, Supreme Court denaturalization cases and union and civil rights activists are represented. Part 3 of the collection consists of many of the diaries Margaret Nowak kept from the mid-1960s up until the early 1990s. There is some material that provides background information about Stanley's career as a union organizer and a Michigan State Senator. This includes the original manuscript of Margaret's book entitled The Making of an American: The Story of Stanley Nowak, which appears to have been published around 1956. It likely served as a basis for her 1989 book about Stanley's and her life, Two Who Were There: A Biography of Stanley Nowak. Several tapes from interviews with Stanley can also be found in the collection. There are also numerous items relating to Stanley Nowak's death in 1994, including obituaries, memorial fund information, remembrances, and notes of sympathy sent to Margaret.


  • 1928-1995


Language of Materials

Some items in Polish and Russian; but most material in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.


4.25 Linear Feet (9 MB, 2 Scrapbooks)



Material in this collection has been minimally arranged by the Reuther Library, and reflects its original order as received. In some cases a file inventory or box listing is available. Subjects may be dispersed throughout the collection.


Part 1 and Part 2 are fully processed and arranged by series, box, and folder. See finding aid for detailed inventory.

Part 3, is not processed. Material has been minimally arranged and reflects its original order as acquired by the Archives. Subjects may be dispersed throughout the entire collection.


The papers of Stanley and Margaret Collingwood Nowak were deposited with the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in 1965. A reorganization of the material, with the addition of some material which had been closed, was completed in 1976.

Part 2 of the collection was received in 1980.

Part 3 of this collection was deposited in 1991 and 2005 by Margaret Collingwood Nowak after the death of her husband, Stanley Nowak.

Related Materials

Don Binkowski Papers, Ernest Goodman Papers, Stanley Nowak Oral History, 1960

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Guide to the Stanley and Margaret Collingwood Nowak Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library; encoded by Jared Natzke.
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