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Mary Upshaw McClendon Papers

Identifier: LP000784
Her papers reflect both her personal and professional life.

Part 1 Series I: The personal files of Mary Upshaw McClendon consist of biographical information, correspondence, and speeches.

Series II: These are the records of the H.W.O. as generated by Mary McClendon. Materials included are articles of incorporation, brochures, correspondence, financial data, newspaper clippings, office files, and proposals.

Part 2 Series III: Transcript of testimony of Ms. McClendon in her suit against the City of Detroit relating to her assignments by the City's Neighborhood Services Department, April 18, 1980. Includes reports of settlement of case as reported in Detroit Legal News, Feb. 27, 1981.


  • 1969 - 1981


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


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


1 Linear Feet (2 MB)


Mary Upshaw McClendon was the founder and first president of the Detroit Household Workers Organization, which aimed to improve the wages and working conditions of household workers. She failed in unionizing workers, but was successful in providing services, training, and support for local household workers and was very active in community relations. McClendon also helped found the national Household Technicians of America. Her papers reflect both her personal and professional life.


The Detroit Household Workers Organization (H.W.O.) was formed on September 4, 1969. The founder and first president was Mary Upshaw McClendon. She was born in Andalusia, Alabama, on October 31, 1922. While attending Snow Hill Normal Industrial Institute, she worked before and after classes as a cook's helper, a babysitter, a housecleaner, and a yard worker. She graduated from Covington County Training School at the age of sixteen. Up until 1969, she continued to be a household worker.

The early history of the H.W.O. is inextricably bound to Mary McClendon, for she was its driving force. It aimed to improve the wages and working conditions of household workers. Its goals included a daily wage of $15.00, car fare, paid vacations, sick leave, workman's compensation, and social security benefits. For fifty cents a month a worker could become a member, and thus support lobbying efforts, receive placement services, and obtain help in solving their grievances with their employers. To upgrade the skills, status, and quality of household work, a training program was proposed. The H.W.O. tapped the resources and talents of many local organizations such as New Detroit and Professional Skills Alliance to achieve these goals.

The H.W.O. became an affiliate of the National Committee for Household Employment (N.C.H.E.) in 1970. This was a nonprofit group whose purpose was to aid in the establishment of local organizations. Mary McClendon proposed the first national convention of household workers in Washington, D.C. This resulted in nationwide organization, the Household Technicians of America.

In 1972, with the help of the Wolverine Bar Association and the West Side Mothers, the H.W.O. attempted to unionize household workers by focusing on the Dial-A-Maid company. However, the certification election failed.

As president of the H.W.O., Mary McClendon was active in the community. She was on the executive board of the Detroit N.A.A.C.P., the Coordinating Council for Human Relations, a member of the Woman's Commission of Community Relations, and the Women's Council of Concerns. Under her guidance, the H.W.O. also concerned itself with the children of household technicians. From 1971-1973 it provided a work station for the Detroit Youth Board.

In the spring of 1974, Mary McClendon resigned as president of the organization. She, however, continued to be active, working for the inclusion of household workers in the minimum wage law and in obtaining special unemployment benefits for them.


Materials arranged in 2 Series - Series 1 (Box 1), Series 2 (Boxes 1-2).

Materials are arranged alphabetically.
Part 2 One items is arranged in 1 Series - Series 3 (Box 2)


The papers of Mary Upshaw McClendon were placed in the Archives of Labor History and Urban Affairs on July 27, 1976 by Mary Upshaw McClendon. Additional papers were placed in the Archives by Ms. McClendon in October of 1981.


Duplicate material in the form of newsletters and flyers along with printed material have been placed in the Archives Library.

Processing History

Finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in May 1985.
Guide to the Mary Upshaw McClendon Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA