Dorothy Bolden was born on October 13, 1924, to Georgia Mae Patterson, a housekeeper, and Raymond Bolden, a chauffeur, in Atlanta, Georgia. She learned about the grueling life of a domestic worker when she began helping her mother in her job at the age of nine. Decades later, still working as a maid, Bolden became involved in the civil rights movement, marching in protests alongside figures like Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who led the Student Nonviolent Coordinate Committee in the 1960s.
"Until the civil rights movement, African American women were some of the most exploited workers in the country," says Dr. Vanessa May, Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Women and Gender Studies Program at Seton Hall University. "Dorothy Bolden, by using the ideas of the civil rights movement and the women's movement, was able to challenge both racial hierarchies and gender hierarchies." After founding the National Domestic Workers Union of America in 1968, Bolden led the group, which served more than 10,000 members around the country at its height, for nearly three decades.
ABOUT THE NARRATOR:
Co-Director, Women & Gender Studies, Seton Hall University
Vanessa May, Ph.D. is Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Women and Gender Studies Program at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. "The story of women has always been interesting to me," she says. "It makes us look at history from a new perspective." May, who graduated from Vassar College, received both an MA and a PhD from the University of Virginia. She is the author of Unprotected Labor: Household Workers, Politics, and Middle-Class Reform in New York 1870-1940.