She rode the same buses, heard the horror stories, and since the age of 9, had experienced first hand the realities of domestic work: long hours, terrible wages, zero safety protections, and no political power to change any of it. Seeking to unionize her cohorts, Atlanta civil rights activist Dorothy Bolden asked her neighbor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to lead the charge. His answer came as a surprise.
“You do it,” King encouraged the 45-year-old advocate. And that she did. Bolden founded the National Domestic Workers Union Association in 1968. Right away, her movement stood apart from many others that came before.
Tired of being characterized as illiterate, non-threatening, cheap work mules for white families, Bolden mandated that every NDWUA member register to vote, while simultaneously providing education, advocacy, training, and job placement opportunities.
Leading lobbying efforts and earning political clout that got RESULTS, Bolden’s base proved she was right when she said: “We aren’t Aunt Jemima women … We are politically strong and independent.” For decades, their power scaled and so did benefits to members, including better wages, protections from employers’ mistreatment, and even wage negotiation trainings.
Bolden continued to hold domestic work positions throughout her tenure. Her work elevated the dignity of their profession and bolstered the power and self-respect of the Black women who courageously fought for their best interests by her side.