Book Details How Household Labor Unionized, Started Movement

Aug 25, 2015

African-American women picket for unionization. A new book ''Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement'' details their struggle.
Credit International Ladies Garment Workers Union Photographs (1885-1985) / The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives in the ILR School at Cornell University;

Atlanta resident, civil rights organizer and household domestic worker Dorothy Bolden died in 2005 at the age of 80, but the work she did during her lifetime lives on.

Barnard College professor and author Premilla Nadasen details the unionization of domestic household workers and how a collective of African-American women led the way, including Atlanta's Dorothy Bolden.
Credit Lelanie Foster

"Dorothy Bolden was absolutely fearless when it came to speaking up for the common person," according to her obituary in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Bolden was born in the historic Vine City neighborhood and started working as a domestic laborer as early as age 9. She was active in the civil rights movement and was even a neighbor of Martin Luther King Jr. In 1968, Bolden founded the National Domestic Workers Union of America.

Her impact on the organization of household help and on the labor laws governing these workers remains as significant today as it was when she helped start the movement in the 1950s.

Bolden is part of a collective of women who were a driving force in the unionization of domestic workers. Their untold story is detailed in a new book called “Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement” by Barnard College professor and author Premilla Nadasen.

Nadasen discussed her book, the history of the domestic household help labor movement, the women involved and more on “Closer Look.”