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Helen and Mardy Polaner Papers

Identifier: LP001257

Scope and Content

The Helen and Mardy Polaner Collection contains correspondence, flyers, union publications, radio scripts, legal briefs and other material reflecting their careers with the teachers', restaurant workers' and seafarers' unions and their involvement in civil liberties causes in the Detroit area, including significant correspondence with Josephine Gomon.


  • 1903 - 1983
  • Majority of material found within 1940 - 1969


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


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


Helen Moore Polaner was born in Saginaw, Michigan on June 15, 1906. She graduated from Detroit Teachers College in 1926 and taught school until 1945, when she took leave to join the staff of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, serving as Executive Secretary, Vice-President and President between 1945 and 1950. She married Mardy Polaner in 1949. After spending five years in night school classes at the Detroit College of Law, she left the teaching profession in 1960 to practice law with Moe Wolfgang. Helen Polaner was active in a number of civil liberties and labor organizations, including the Americans for Democratic Action, the NAACP and the Michigan Federation of Labor, which elected her its first female vice president in 1950. She died in 1987.

Mardy Polaner was a labor organizer for the AFL in the 1930s. In the early 1940s, the AFL assigned him to the marine trades on the Great Lakes, appointing him administrator of the Great Lakes District of the Seafarers International Union. He served as Secretary-Treasurer from 1943-1945, during which time he edited the union's newspaper, Great Lakes Seafarer, and delivered a series of "Frank Talks" over several radio stations in the Great Lakes area rebutting charges of SIU racketeering by National Maritime Union (CIO) officials. He left the Seafarers to take a job on the staff of Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union Local 705 in Detroit. In 1951 he was sent by the international in Cincinnati to organize restaurants for Local 505 in Columbus, Ohio, where as secretary-treasurer of the local, he presided over the bitter strike to unionize the Neil House hotel in 1951. Later he became president of Robot Services, Inc., a vending machine company.


1.25 Linear Feet (2 MB)


Attorney Helen Moore Polaner was active in various civil liberties and labor organizations, including Americans for Democratic Action and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Ms. Polaner served as president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers from 1945-1950 and was the first female vice president of the Michigan Federation of Labor. Mardy Polaner served as a labor organizer for the American Federation of Labor (AFL), working with the Seafarers International Union (SIU) in the Great Lakes Region and the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union in Ohio. The Helen and Mardy Polaner Collection documents their careers in the labor movement and their involvement in civil liberties issues in the Detroit area.


Materials arranged alphabetically by author, and then by title.




The papers of Helen and Mardy Polaner were deposited in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs between 1985 and 1990 by Mr. Polaner.

Related Materials

Related material may be found in the Myra Wolfgang and Detroit Federation of Teachers (AFT Local 231) Collections.


A number of photographs of Hotel and Restaurant Employees Local 505 in Columbus, Ohio, including several of the Neil House strike in 1951, and a few photographs of Helen Polaner and Myra Wolfgang and HRE Local 705 in Detroit have been placed in the Archives Audiovisual Collection.

Processing History

Finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in March, 2001.
Guide to the Helen and Mardy Polaner Papers
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