Mechanical Engineer To Booth Babe and Back Again: The Tragicomic Career of Wayne State Engineering Alum Lucille Pieti



Society of Women Engineers archivist Troy Eller English shares the tragicomic story of Lucille Pieti, 1950 mechanical engineering alum and Miss Wayne University. Sidelined in technical writing despite her degree and experience, Pieti found her career veering farther and farther away from engineering in the mid-1950s as her bosses at Chrysler capitalized on her beauty rather than her brains. Molded into a spokeswoman at auto shows and in Hollywood, and giving specs on the Dodge La Femme’s pink umbrella instead of its engine block, Pieti reclaimed her engineering identity by leaving Chrysler, and the country, in 1955.

Related Collections:
Society of Women Engineers Records
Society of Women Engineers Detroit Section Records
Society of Women Engineers Publications
The Wayne Engineer / The Buzz Saw
Wayne State University Collegian Newspapers

Related Resources:
Collections Spotlight: “Out of the House: Detroit Women’s Organizations in the 20th Century”
Amy Sue Bix – Girls Coming to Tech!: A History of American Engineering Education for Women
Edward A. Malone – “Chrysler’s ‘Most Beautiful Engineer’: Lucille J. Pieti in the Pillory of Fame”
Margaret W. Rossiter – Women scientists in America

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Michigan Black History Bibliography Sample Card

(Re)Introducing the Michigan Black History Bibliography



Reuther Library field archivist Dr. Louis Jones and former archives students and staff members Mattie Dugan and Allie Penn discuss the Reuther’s Michigan Black History Bibliography (MBHB) and the multi-year, student-led project to digitize a decades-old index card file. Meticulously compiled by Reuther librarian Roberta McBride in the 1970s, the MBHB cataloged well-known and obscure articles, theses, and other bibliographic sources about African American history in Michigan, including slavery in Detroit in the 1700s, Underground Railroad activity in the 1800s, the racism and discrimination Blacks faced in the 1900s, and African American community-building efforts throughout. Jones discusses the history and importance of the MBHB card file, while Dugan and Penn describe the efforts of the Wayne State University chapter of the Society of American Archivists to digitize the resource, with financial assistance of a Carnegie-Whitney Grant from the American Library Association.

Related Resources:
Michigan Black History Bibliography
Michigan Black History Bibliography Now Available Online

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Louis Jones, Mattie Dugan, Alexandrea Penn
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


This Union Cause: The Queer History of the United Automobile Workers



Wayne State history PhD candidate James McQuaid discusses his research on the gradual cognizance and acceptance of queer autoworkers in the twentieth century, leading toward the UAW’s rapid embrace of LGBTQ-friendly policies and initiatives in the 1990s. He shares compelling stories of several queer auto workers, including: Billie Hill discovering a lesbian enclave in a Highland Park plant in the 1940s; Gary Kapanowski winning a 1973 union election despite being aggressively outed by a rival the day before; Joni Christian, a transgender woman whose union leadership at the GM Lordstown saved her job after returning to work following sexual reassignment surgery in the 1970s; and Ron Woods and Martha Grevatt, who in speaking out about the harassment they faced successfully led the UAW and Chrysler to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. McQuaid received the 2020 Wayne State History Department’s Joe L. Norris Endowed Award for his essay, “The First Ladies of Labor: How Women Challenged Restrictive Gender Conventions and Established Lesbian Identities on the UAW Shop Floor During World War II.” His dissertation is tentatively titled “This Union Cause: The Queer History of the United Automobile Workers.”

Related Resources:
The Kapanowski Challenge: How Rank and File UAW Members Rallied Around Gay Activists to Fight Runaway Shops in 1972 Detroit

Related Collections:
Ed Liska Papers
Olga Madar Papers
UAW Region 1B Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: James McQuaid
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Race and Rebellion: Reexamining the Unlearned Lessons of the Kerner Report a Half Century Later



Reuther Library outreach archivist Meghan Courtney discusses the conclusions of the 1968 Kerner Commission report in the context of today’s protests over race relations and police brutality. Following infamous rebellions in Detroit and Newark in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson established the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, chaired by Illinois governor Otto Kerner, to identify the root causes of urban racial unrest and prevent further violence in American cities. In its final report, the Commission placed the ultimate blame for so-called riots on lack of educational and economic opportunity for African Americans, ingrained institutional and societal racism, and militarized police forces, among other reasons. President Johnson and other leaders largely failed to adopt the recommendations suggested by the Kerner Commission to reduce racial tension by creating more equitable opportunities for African Americans in employment, education, welfare, and suitable housing. Courtney explains how she uses the Kerner Commission report to help students better understand the root causes of Detroit’s 1967 uprising and why that unrest continues today.

Related Resources:
50 Years Later: the Kerner Commission and the Poor People’s Campaign
Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (Kerner Commission Report)

Related Collections:
Jerome Cavanagh Papers
Norman McRae Papers
New Detroit, Inc. Records
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Meghan Courtney
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work: Black-Owned Businesses and the Housewives League of Detroit



Allie Penn explains how her work on a grant-funded digitization project introduced her to the Housewives League of Detroit and led to a digital humanities project mapping Detroit Black-owned businesses from the 1930s through 1950s. Espousing the informal motto, “Don’t buy where you can’t work,” the Housewives League of Detroit was founded in 1930 by Fannie Peck to unite and empower Black housewives in the city while also strengthening the economic base of the Black community. An offshoot of her work on the Housewives League of Detroit collection, Penn has been mapping 1930s through 1950s Black-owned businesses, as advertised in Voice of Negro Business, a newspaper produced by the Housewives League of Detroit and the Booker T. Washington Trade Association, the Housewives League’s male counterpart founded by Peck’s husband, Rev. William Peck.

Penn is a Wayne State History PhD candidate, archivist, and a former Reuther Library staff member. The Housewives League of Detroit Records are located in the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library. They were digitized as part of a collaborative LSTA grant from the Library of Michigan to digitize and make available records documenting underrepresented populations. Partners on the grant also included the Arab American National Museum, which digitized the oral history project, “Arab Americans and the Automobile: Voices from the Factory,” and the Walter P. Reuther Library, which digitized the LGBT Detroit Records. These and other collections can be accessed online on the Michigan Memories portal: www.michmemories.org

Related Resources:
Michigan Memories
Detroit Black-Owned Businesses StoryMap

Related Collections:
Civil Rights Congress of Michigan Records
NAACP Detroit Branch Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Allie Penn
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


A group exploring primary source maps in the Reuther Library reading room, September 27, 2017

Creating that “A-Ha!” Moment: Using Archives and Primary Sources to Inspire Active Learning in the Classroom



Outreach archivist Meghan Courtney discusses the Reuther Library’s efforts to extend primary source instruction beyond history classes to inspire active learning in the classroom and empower students to become part of scholarly conversations. Through the Reuther’s innovative Archives and Primary Resource Education Lab (APREL), Wayne State economics students have studied Detroit-area public food programs to understand the intersection of economics and public health. Law students have examined police reports, eye-witness accounts, and contemporary reporting to weigh the evidence and draw their own conclusions about Detroit’s infamous 1969 New Bethel Incident. And K-12 teachers have learned how to integrate primary source instruction into their curricula at all age levels. Courtney also discusses how students and teachers can access digitized archival resources, and offers suggestions and resources for archives and special collections looking to make their archival instruction more robust.

Related Resources
Reuther Library Archives and Primary Resource Education Lab (APREL)
Reuther Library Primary Source Document Sets and Teacher Plans

  • Detroit 1967
  • Judge Damon Keith: A Life of Service and Great Purpose
  • League of Revolutionary Black Workers
  • Radicalism in American Politics
  • What is the Labor Movement

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Meghan Courtney
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Poorly Described Folders and Human Hair: Processing Report with ALUA Archivist Shae Rafferty



Shae Rafferty, the Reuther Library’s Labor and Urban Affairs Archivist, explains what happens behind the scenes to get donated collections ready for researchers. She discusses how collections are prioritized for processing, or organizing and describing them to make it easier for researchers to find the information they’re looking for. Rafferty describes some of the memorable things she has found in the collections she has processed, both pleasant (scrapbooks made by friends and Detroit theater ushers in the early 1900s) and unpleasant (human hair). She also recalls finding a deeply important but largely forgotten log of 1940s racial incidents in a folder unhelpfully titled, “Barometer Report,” emphasizing how important it is for archivists to re-evaluate and re-describe the contents of collections to make them more findable for researchers.

Related Collections
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records
Lyrick Club Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Shae Rafferty
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


A Double Agent, A Conservative Affirmative Action Advocate, and A Black Nationalist Walk Into an Archive…: Field Report with Archivist Louis Jones



After a brief hiatus we’re back! Reuther Library Field Archivist Louis Jones discusses fascinating collections recently opened at the Reuther Library. William Gernaey was hired by Chrysler and Ford in the 1930s and 1940s to infiltrate the Community Party in Michigan, which in turn hired him to spy on local unions. Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. became the first African American manager at Michigan Bell Telephone Company in 1939, and later at AT&T, and although a conservative he advocated for affirmative action policies to raise opportunities for all African Americans. In 1965 Edward Vaughn opened the nation’s second black bookstore, Vaughn’s Books in Detroit, later represented his community in the Michigan House of Representative for many years, and has been actively involved in the NAACP in Alabama since his retirement. Together, their archival collections add to the Reuther Library’s extensive resources documenting 20th century politics and civil rights in Michigan. Jones is the field archivist for the Walter P. Reuther Library, and received a Ph.D. in history from Wayne State University.

Related Resources
Collection Spotlight: Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. Papers

Related Collections
William Gernaey Papers
Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. Papers
Edward Vaughn Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Louis Jones
Sound: Troy Eller English
Image: William Gernaey, “Communist,” Walter P. Reuther Library, Virtual Motor City Project: vmc26150
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Uncovering Detroit Sound: Sippie Wallace and Son House in the Folklore Archives



Archivist Bart Bealmear explains how he rediscovered recordings of famed African American blues musicians Sippie Wallace and Son House buried in the Reuther Library’s Folklore Archives. One of the most famous female blues vocalists in the 1920s, Sippie Wallace left the blues stage for four decades, choosing instead to sing and play the organ at Leland Baptist Church in Detroit. The recording Bealmear uncovered in the Folklore Archives captures Wallace demoing T.B. Blues in her living room in 1965, prior to her professional comeback in 1966. Bealmear also shares a clip from an April 18, 1965 WDTM interview with American Delta blues singer and guitarist Son House, recorded when he performed at the DeRoy Auditorium at Wayne State University in Detroit. In the excerpt, House tells the story of discouraging a man named Robert from playing the guitar due to poor skill — a man who turned out to be famed blues musician Robert Johnson.

Bealmear also promotes an upcoming concert featuring Detroit’s “Soul Ambassador” Melvin Lincoln Davis and Dennis Coffey, R&B and soul guitarist for the Motown Records Funk Brothers studio band. The concert will be held in the atrium of the Reuther Library on January 23, 2020 on the stage of the historic Bluebird Inn, restored and on loan from the Detroit Sound Conservancy. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Related Collections
Folklore Archive: Studies and Research Projects
Folklore Archive: Student Field Projects Records
Folklore Archive: Student Field Projects Photographs
Sippie Wallace, T.B. Blues, 1965
Son House, WDTM interview, April 18, 1965 (excerpt #1)
Son House, WDTM interview, April 18, 1965 (excerpt #2)

More Information
Detroit Sound Conservancy
Dennis Coffey

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Bart Bealmear
Sound: Troy Eller English
Image: Sippie Wallace, Walter P. Reuther Library, Virtual Motor City project: vmc49649_1

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


Hidden in the Fields: Invisible Agricultural Child Labor in the American Southwest and the Limits of Citizenship



Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez explains how labor laws helped define the modern boundaries of childhood and citizenship for both internationally and domestically migrant Latinx children working on American farms. Despite the child labor ban supposedly implemented in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act and later laws, legal loopholes have allowed migrant Latinx children to continue to work on American farms today and have limited their access to education. Padilla-Rodríguez explains how advocates fought to enact social welfare initiatives for farmworking children along their migratory route, while teachers and women UFW organizers pursued legislative channels to try to get stricter child labor protections, and special educational and childcare programs created for migrant youth. Padilla-Rodríguez is a Ph.D. candidate in the Columbia University Department of History and a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Latinx Research Center.

Related Collections
Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee Records
Dolores Huerta Papers
Michigan Farm Worker Ministry Coalition Records
National Farm Workers Association Records
National Farm Worker Ministry Records
Ronald B. Taylor Papers
UFW Organizing Committee (UFWOC) Records
UFW Office of the President: Cesar Chavez Records
UFW Texas Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink