All posts by Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

About Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

The Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs was established as the Labor History Archives at Wayne State University in 1960, with the goal of collecting and preserving original source materials relating to the development of the American labor movement. In 1975, the Walter P. Reuther Library was constructed with funds given to Wayne State University by the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, and through a supplementary grant from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. A later gift from the UAW funded the construction of the library's Leonard Woodcock Wing, completed in 1991. The Reuther Library is the largest labor archives in North America and is home to the collections of numerous unions and labor-related organizations. Its collection strengths extend to the political and community life of urban and metropolitan Detroit, the civil rights movement in Michigan and nationally, and women's struggles in the workplace. The Reuther Library is also the home of the Wayne State University Archives, established by the Board of Governors in 1958 in recognition of the importance and permanent value of the University's official files, records, and documents.

Cover Art, Sheet Music, "The Rebel Girl"

Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver



Historian Jane Little Botkin explains how Jane Street, a single mother, firebrand, and little-known IWW organizer, orchestrated a 1916 housemaids’ rebellion in Denver. To fight for better pay and working conditions in the elite Capitol Hill neighborhood, Street worked with—and later, despite—the IWW to blacklist and shame the area’s worst domestic employers, thereby disrupting the comfort and reputations of some of Denver’s most influential and powerful families.

Author of The Girl Who Dared to Defy: Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver and Frank Little and the IWW: The Blood That Stained an American Family, Botkin has received two Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America, the Caroline Bancroft History Prize from the Denver Public Library Western History and Genealogy Department, and the Best Historical Nonfiction Award from the Texas Association of Authors.

Related Collections:
Industrial Workers of the World Records

Related Resources:
Botkin, J.L. (2021). The Girl Who Dared to Defy: Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver. University of Oklahoma Press.

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Jane Little Botkin
Music: Bart Bealmear


It’s Been a Year: Reuther Library Director Aliqae Geraci Recalls Her First Year on the Job During a Global Pandemic



Aliqae Geraci explains that she had big plans when she became director of the Reuther Library a year ago, and those plans were immediately scuttled when her first day on the job coincided with the first day Wayne State University’s on-campus operations were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She describes how she and the Reuther pivoted in the past year to safely provide patrons virtual access to physical archival materials, and contemplates how the pandemic will and won’t change the Reuther’s services in the future. Geraci also shares how she became involved in labor libraries, and what she’s been binging during the pandemic.

Related Resources:
Meet Our New Director, Aliqae Geraci

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Aliqae Geraci
Music: Bart Bealmear


Bootlegged Aliens: How Undocumented Immigrants from Canada in the 1920s Shaped American Immigration Policy



Dr. Ashley Johnson Bavery explains how undocumented European immigrants coming over the Canadian border to work in the Detroit auto industry in the 1920s and 1930s spurred nativist discourse, influenced government policies toward illegal immigration, and shaped how business and labor unions used and positioned migrant labor. Dr. Bavery is Assistant Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University and author of Bootlegged Aliens: Immigration Politics on America’s Northern Border.

Related Collections:
AFL-CIO Metropolitan Detroit Records
Joe Brown Papers
Civil Rights Congress of Michigan Records
Richard Frankensteen Papers
International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit Records
Henry Kraus Papers
James Lindahl Papers
Maurice Sugar Papers
United Community Services Central Files

Related Resources:
Bavery, A.J. (2020). Bootlegged Aliens: Immigration Politics on America’s Northern Border. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Ashley Johnson Bavery
Music: Bart Bealmear


The Long Deep Grudge: How the Haymarket “Riot” of 1886 Evolved into a Bitter Battle Between the Farm Equipment Workers Union and International Harvester in the Mid-Twentieth Century



Labor historian Dr. Toni Gilpin explores how the McCormick family’s greed and union-busting in the late 19th century set the stage for a bitter battle between the International Harvester corporation and the radical Farm Equipment Workers union in the 1930s and 1940s. Although the union was absorbed by the United Auto Workers in 1955, Gilpin describes how the militancy bred into generations of International Harvester workers influenced UAW tactics into the 1970s.

Dr. Gilpin’s book, The Long Deep Grudge: A Story of Big Capital, Radical Labor, and Class War in the American Heartland, received a Taft Labor History Award honorable mention award in 2020.

Related Collections:
UAW archival collections

Related Resources:
Gilpin, T. (2020). The Long Deep Grudge: A Story of Big Capital, Radical Labor, and Class War in the American Heartland. Haymarket Books.

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Toni Gilpin
Music: Bart Bealmear


The Detroit Interracial Committee and Racial Pragmatism, 1944-1950



Sean Henry discusses the Detroit Interracial Committee’s (IRC) pragmatic attempt to ease racial tensions in the city following the 1943 Detroit riots. Assuming that it could not completely eliminate racial antagonism, the IRC instead used its Community Barometer initiative and the Detroit Public Schools program for intercultural education to identify and manage systemic racial inequities in the city. Henry recently received an MA in History from the University of Chicago and is a college transition advisor in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. His article on the Detroit Interracial Committee was named the 2019 Graduate Student Essay Prize Winner in the Spring 2020 issue of the Michigan Historical Review.

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

Related Resources:
Henry, S. (2020). 2019 Graduate Student Essay Prize Winner: Racial Pragmatism and the Conditions of Racial Contact: The Detroit Interracial Committee, Public Schools, and Measuring Racial Tension, 1944-1950. Michigan Historical Review, 46(1), 69-105.

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Sean Henry
Music: Bart Bealmear


SEIU: A Successful Union in an Era of Labor Decline



Dr. Timothy Minchin explores how the SEIU nearly doubled its membership from 1980-1995, during a time of significantly declining numbers in most other American labor unions. Through an exploration of SEIU’s membership drives at nursing homes, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and its long-running Justice for Janitors campaign, Minchin credits the union’s growth to a combination of organizing, affiliation with independent unions, legislative advances for public employee unions, and the prevalence of low-wage jobs in the growing service sector. Dr. Minchin is a Professor of History at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.

Related Collections:
SEIU Executive Office: John Sweeney Records
SEIU Publications
SEIU Organizing Department Records

Related Resources:
Timothy Minchin – “A successful union in an era of decline: interrogating the growth of the Service Employees International Union, 1980-1995,” Labor History

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewers: Dan Golodner, Sarah Lebovitz
Interviewee: Timothy J. Minchin
Music: Bart Bealmear


Henry Ford marches with Oscar Marx through the streets of downtown Detroit during the draft parade, circa 1914

When It Happened Here: Michigan and the Transnational Development of American Fascism, 1920-1945



Salaina Catalano Crumb explains how American fascism developed and thrived in Michigan from the 1920s through the 1940s due to the influence of right-wing individuals and organizations swayed by the politics of Nazi Germany, including industrialist Henry Ford, anti-communist clergy members Father Coughlin and Reverend Gerald L.K. Smith, militant secret societies like the Black Legion, and immigrant veterans’ and fascist groups including the German American Bund. Crumb received dual MA/MSc degrees in International & World History at Columbia University and the London School of Economics, and works in the automotive field.

Related Collections:
Peter H. Amann Papers
Father Charles Coughlin FBI Files
Samuel Kellman Papers
Social Justice (Father Coughlin’s anti-communist publication)
Maurice Sugar Papers

Related Resources:
Salaina Catalano – “When It Happened Here: Michigan and the Transnational Development of American Fascism, 1920-1945,” Michigan Historical Review

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Salaina Catalano Crumb
Music: Bart Bealmear


Portrait of Cesar Chavez taken at his 8th grade graduation, 1942. This was his final year of formal schooling before he went to work in the fields full time.

Reading the Room: How César Chávez’s Early Life Prepared Him to Lead



Dr. Clay Walker explains how César Chávez’s lifeworld discourse – the language, culture, and experiences that shaped who he was and how he encountered and navigated the world – uniquely prepared him to lead the United Farm Workers and effectively communicate his message to a diverse audience. Dr. Walker is a senior lecturer in English and literacy studies at Wayne State University.

Related Collections:
UFW Office of the President: Cesar Chavez Records
Sydney D. Smith Papers

Related Resources:
Clay Walker – “Lifeworld Discourse, Translingualism, and Agency in a Discourse Genealogy of César Chávez’s Literacies”

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


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