National Housewives' League of America Records

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National Housewives' League of America Records

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger National Housewives' League of America Records collection held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Organization established in 1933 to encourage African American housewives to patronize African American-owned businesses. The national organization was comprised of local groups, the most important of these being the Housewives' League of Detroit, which was founded in 1930 under the leadership of Fannie B. Peck. The Detroit League worked in conjunction with the Booker T. Washington Trade Association whose organization was headed by the Rev. William H. Peck, and the National Negro Business League. The record group includes minutes, correspondence, publications, and activity files of both the national organization and the Detroit league. The series in the record group are History and Organization; Core Records; Correspondence; Programs and Events; Media Coverage; Publications; Chapters; Related Organizations; and Other Materials. The largest portion of the Chapters series consists of records of the Detroit league and include history, publications, and other organizational materials.

The National Housewives' League of America, Inc. began as one of several organizations founded in the early part of the twentieth century to advance the economic status of African Americans. Its mission was to encourage African American housewives to patronize African American-owned businesses through "directed spending." The Rev. William H. Peck and his wife Fannie B. Peck, after hearing Alben L. Holsey of the National Negro Business League and Tuskegee Institute speak about the successes of the Colored Merchants Association and the New York Housewives' Association, were inspired to create similar organizations in Detroit. Rev. Peck organized the Booker T. Washington Trade Association in April 1930. Mrs. Peck, believing that the support of those women who controlled most household budgets -- housewives -- was essential to any business success, founded the Housewives' League of Detroit on June 10, 1930, with 50 members. In the next couple of years, Mrs. Peck went on to organize leagues in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo, Ohio; Indianapolis, Ind.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Jacksonville, Fla. By 1932, Alben Holsey, impressed with the response of the women in the leagues, invited Mrs. Peck and the other league representatives to meet in New York City to form a national committee, which Mrs. Peck chaired. The following year, the national committee met in Durham, N.C., in concert with the National Negro Business League, and formally organized the National Housewives' League of America, Inc. Mrs. Peck was elected the first president of the organization.

Despite its early success, interest in the organization faltered somewhat between 1934 and 1940, with only the Detroit League maintaining a consistently high level of activity in the national organization. A turning point was reached in 1940 when the Detroit League entertained its parent organization, the National Negro Business League, as well as the national meeting of its own organizational body. Enthusiastic representatives from Memphis, Tenn.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Cleveland, Ohio; New Orleans, La.; New York, N.Y.; and St. Louis, Mo., attended, and the organization was rejuvenated.

Over the next several decades, the League educated African American women about their purchasing power and encouraged them to support African American-owned businesses as well as those non-African American-owned businesses that employed African Americans. Activities supported by the local leagues included National Housewives' Day, to be held at a local church every year on the fourth Sunday in October; April National Trade Month; numerous contests, including the annual Scrapbook, Essay and Queen Contests; consumer education programs; awards for business and professional people; youth education groups, and Junior and Senior Units of the League. One of the most significant annual events was Fannie B. Peck Day, instituted at the national meeting of the organization in 1946. The third Sunday in May each year was designated as the day on which to celebrate Mrs. Peck's contributions to the organization, with 75 percent of the funds raised during that week to go to the National Housewives' League and the remainder to remain with local leagues for educational purposes.

In 1953, the National Housewives' League of America ceased to meet in conjunction with the National Negro Business League at its annual convention and became more independent, although the two organizations continued to have close and cooperative ties throughout the following decades. The League also maintained similarly close relations with the Booker T. Washington Trade Association and the Tuskegee Institute.

The Housewives' League of Detroit, as the original chapter of the organization and a source for many of the organization's national leaders, remained an extremely powerful political and social presence in Detroit throughout the twentieth century.

The National Housewives' League continuously attempted to adapt throughout the years to changes in society in order to bring its empowering message of "Buy, Boost, Build" to African-Americans, including changing the official name of the organization to National Housewives' League of America, Inc., For Economic Security in 1986. However, good intentions aside, an increasingly aging membership led to a final cessation of activity in 1996.

The National Housewives' League is notable for the creativity, strength, and determination exhibited by its leaders and members in striving to improve the economic status of African-Americans throughout the twentieth century through self-empowerment, entrepreneurship, and consumer support.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

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