Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson collection
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Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson collection

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Auburn Avenue Research Library
Creator: Bolden, Dorothy, d. 2005
Title: Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson collection
Dates: 1968-1996
Quantity: 9.5 linear ft.
Abstract:Mrs. Bolden Thompson used her experience as a domestic worker to organize the Union, which successfully improved the wages and working conditions of domestic workers in Atlanta, and other cities of the U.S.
Identification: aarl96-005

Biographical/Historical Note

Ms. Dorothy Lee Bolden was born on October 13, 1923, to Mrs. Georgia M. Patterson, and Mr. Raymond Bolden, in Atlanta, Georgia.

At age three Mrs. Bolden Thompson was blinded after a fall that damaged her optical nerve. Her sight returned between the ages of seven and nine, and during that period her work's life began. She received her formal education through the ninth grade at E. P. Johnson Elementary School, and David T. Howard High School in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1941, Ms. Dorothy Lee Bolden married Frank Smith. Within a short period, the couple divorced, and she married Abram Thompson, Sr. She is the mother of six children - Frank, Avon Butts, Dorothy Ingram, Altenmiece Knight, Abram, and Anthony.

Mrs. Bolden Thompson worked as a Domestic Worker for forty-one years. In 1930 her first job was washing diapers after school for $1.25 per week. At the age twelve she cleaned house for $1.50 per week for a Jewish family.

Over the years Mrs. Thompson also worked in a variety of jobs - Greyhound bus station; Linen Supply Company; Railroad Express, and Sears Roebuck. She would regularly quit these jobs after a brief tenure and do domestic work, then take on another job with a company in order to pay into Social Security.

In 1968, using the knowledge of her years as a domestic worker, and her experiences as a community activist, Ms. Bolden Thompson organized the National Domestic Workers Union of America, Inc., which successfully improved the wages and working conditions of domestic workers in Atlanta, and served as an ongoing model for domestic workers in other cities; he developed a Job Counselor and Placement Service for household workers (maids) in Washington, D.C.; she developed and directed Training in Home Management Program in 1970-1971. She is also the developer and director of Homemaking Skills Program, from 1973-1974.

In the 1960s Mrs. Bolden Thompson was involved in the civil rights movement with her then neighbor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who also encouraged her in her organizing efforts. In 1964, when the Atlanta School Board decided to move the eighth grade out of her community to a condemned school building, she organized a boycott and protest, demanding equal and quality education. As a result of these efforts, the board built a modem school in her neighborhood.

The organizing techniques, which Mrs. Bolden Thompson learned during the skirmish with the school board, prepared her well when she decided to organize Atlanta's maids. As a result of her community involvement, Ms. Bolden became well known to many Atlanta citizens. During bus rides with other maids, she heard their complaints about "no money, no respect, and long hours". As she became aware of the working conditions and problems facing fellow workers in private households, in 1964 Mrs. Thompson began plans for an organization that would work to improve the wages and working conditions of maids. The legal minimum wage set by the United States Government at the time was $1.25 per hour, but African American maids in Atlanta were earning $3.50 to $5.00 a day, for twelve to thirteen hours.

In 1968 Mrs. Thompson asked representatives of organized labor for support and direction. They advised her to assemble a meeting of at least ten women. Within a few months, after several hundred women gathered, the representatives responded and the group created a new union, the National Domestic Workers Union. In September of that year, Mrs. Thompson was elected president of that union. Under her charismatic leadership, the group received a charter, and membership increased. As a result of the group's efforts, wages increased and working conditions improved, and maids were receiving $13.50 to $15.00 per day plus carfare.

During the 1970s Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter consulted Mrs. Thompson on issues regarding workers. From 1972 to 1976, she served as a member of the advisory committee in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, to Secretary Elliot L. Richardson. In 1975, Governor George Busbee appointed her to the Georgia Commission on the Status of Women. In 1980, negative publicity surrounding a federal grand jury investigation of the National Domestic Workers Emergency Assistance Fund served to undermine the growth of the organization. An audit of the organization's books revealed that more money had been spent than was allocated by grants funding the group. However, the investigation found that Mrs. Thompson had supplemented federal funds with personal monies in order to carry out the organization's programs.

Mrs. Thompson spends her days providing social services to her clients, and placing eligible applicants in domestic jobs. According to Ms. Bolden, "God put me here to help other people".

Her activities include:

Founder and President of National Domestic Workers Union of America (1968)
Vice President of Vine City NDP Housing (1967)
Vice President of Black Women's Coalition of Atlanta (1973)
Member of Fulton County Democratic Party
Member of the Executive Board of State Democratic Party and Board of Governor
Member of the Board of Directors of WIGO Radio Station
Member of the Governor of Georgia Commission on the Statuses of Women
Member of the Advisory team for the Legal Aid Council
Member of OIC. Board of Directors
Member of Board of Directors of Legal Aid and the Executive Board of Atlanta, Ga.
Member of Vine City Baptist Church
Former member of the NAACP, Atlanta Chapter
Former member of Economic Opportunity Atlanta, Incl. (CSA)

Scope and Content Note

The Dorothy Bolden Thompson Collection includes scrapbook; newspaper clippings; general correspondence; photographs and portraits; certificates, and artifacts. The goals of the National Domestic Workers Union were to develop training programs for maids, and to create a nonprofit employee service to provide job placement and counseling for its members. The collection, which spans the years 1969-1996, is arranged into series: I. Scrapbook; II. General Correspondence; III. Legal and Legal-Style Documentation; IV. Printed Materials; V. Photographs and Plaques; VI. Artifacts.


I. Scrapbook.

II. General Correspondence.

III. Legal and Legal-Style Documentation.

IV. Printed Materials.

V. Photographs and Plaques.

VI. Artifacts.

Index Terms

African Americans--Employment.
Bolden, Dorothy, d. 2005
Domestics--Labor unions--Georgia.
Domestics--Labor unions--United States.
National Domestic Workers Union (U.S.).

Administrative Information


Mrs. Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson donated her collection to the Auburn Avenue Research Library in 1996.

Processing Information

Processed by Regina Broh-Gastin, 1996.


Restrictions of Access

There are no restrictions on the research use of this collection. However, permission must be obtained for reproduction of materials for which the Research Library does not hold copyright to researcher only for "Fair Use", as defined in the copyright law (Title 17, US Code). Also, permission must be obtained to publish reproductions from materials for which the Research Library does hold copyright for one time use only.

Container List


Series I: Scrapbook, 1978-1983

The scrapbook is titled " Ms. Dorothy Lee Bolden, Founder and President of The National Domestic Worker's of America, Inc., Founded (in) 1968), and it contains a one-paged biography of Ms. Bolden in the cover page of scrapbook; several correspondence; photographs and programs.


1One scrapbook - Ms. Dorothy L. Bolden, Founder & President
Certificate - The International Who's Who, 1978
Certificate - The State of Georgia, 1983
Award - Distinguished Black Women Award, featured Ms. Bolden, 1983
Resolution from Fulton County, in a black certificate folder
Bindery (brown in color) - Personnel policies and procedures, 04/28/1878

Series II: General correspondence, 1968-1995

Contains general correspondence from Advisory Committee and Board of Commissioners of Fulton County (1972-1981).



21Correspondence: To Ms. Dorothy Lee Bolden, 1970-1988
2Correspondence: To Ms. Bolden, 1968-1970
3Correspondence: To Ms. Bolden, 1973-1995
3Correspondence: Invitation to Ms. Bolden, from President Ford, 1975
3Correspondence: To Ms. Bolden, from Walter E. Fauntroy, 1984

Series III: Legal and Legal-Style Documentations, 1966-1986

Contains miscellaneous legal documents (no date are given).



24Document - Statement For The Committee on Education and labor, n.d.
4Document - Unemployed Measurement, n.d.
4Document - The Status of Minority Women, n.d.
4Document - Program Development, n.d.
4Document - Force Participation, n.d.
4Document - "New Horizons", household employment, 1970
4Document - A National Inquiry of Private Household, 1966
4Document - Vine City Community Coalition, 1986
4Document - "Project Start", n.d.

Series IV: Printed Materials, 1968-1994

Contains newspaper clippings, magazine,and certificates.



25Program: 15th Anniversary Banquet, 1982
5Program: Education Benefit and Awards Banquet, 1979
5Program: Graduation - National Domestic Workers of America, Inc., 1979
5Program: Spring Fashion Extravaganza, 1981
5Program: Graduation - Household Workers of America, Inc., n.d.
5Booklet (National Domestic Workers of America, Inc.), 1968
5Two business cards for Ms. Bolden, n.d.
5One blank "membership card", n.d.
6Newspaper clipping -"Vital black history is being overlooked", 1993
6Newspaper clipping - "Farrakhan and Jackson: Time for another look", 1984
6Newspaper clipping - Dorothy Bolden, zealous spokesman for the poor., 1984
6Newspaper clipping - Profile On Peachtree, 1987
6Newspaper clipping - Strength, Sacrifices of Domestic Workers Praised., 1975
6Newspaper clipping - U.S. Unveils 'Magna Carta of Prison Reform', 1971
6Flyer - Remember Attica! The black workers congress, n.d.
6Flyer - Young Ideas for Atlanta, n.d.
7Magazine: SAGE, 'A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, 1986
7Program: Proposed Black Leadership Conference, 1985
8Legal Document: From the Office of Secretary of State, 1968
8Minutes: Secretary's advisory committee on women's rights, 1972
8Discussion Series: Atlanta Forum for Public Education, n.d.
9Meeting: Call to meeting, 1969
9Legal document: City-Wide Bus Committee, n.d.
9Document: Handwritten transcript, 1970
10Legal document: Model By-laws
11Newspaper clipping - Dorothy Bolden Speaks, 1976
11Newspaper clipping - The Mayoral Race: Which way Atlanta?, 1981
11Newspaper clipping - Company honors 6 women for civic leadership, 1992
11Newspaper clipping - Woman's work - Maid's life long days low wages, 1981
11Newspaper clipping - Atlanta's long road to brotherhood, 1976
11Newspaper clipping - Domestic workers to observe 11 th anniversary, 1979
11Newspaper clipping - Strength, sacrifices of domestic workers praised, 1975
11Newspaper clipping - 'Black women in America' is massive effort, n.d.
11Newspaper clipping - Women: Encyclopedia, 1993
12Newspaper clipping - The fighter/Dorothy Bolden has devoted her life, 1983
12Newspaper clipping - National Women's History Month, 1994
12Newspaper clipping - Exhibits shows celebrate women, 1994
13Whole newspaper - Atlanta Extra: Total Community Coverage., 1994
14Church program - Young Matrons Fellowship Hour, 1975
14Booklet: Literature concerning social security; unemployment payment, n.d.
15Seven certificates of Ms. Dorothy Lee Bolden, 1976-'86

Series V: Photographs and Plaques, 1970-1987

Contains actual photographic prints, and reproduced photograph in newspaper articles.



216Photograph Fulton County Grand Jury (identification sheet attached), 1983
17Photographs - contains 8 photographs of Ms. Bolden


3Personalities of the South award, 1975-1976, 5 3/4"X 7 1/2"
Personalities of the South, 1976-1977, 7"X9" - (2)
Loyal Service to Concerned Citizens, 1975, 5"X8"
Appreciation, Maid's Honor Day, July 15, 1970, 6"X8 1/2"
WIGO Community Action and Awareness Award, 1971 to 1972, 9"X12"
John Wesley Dobbs Award - Metro Atlanta SCLC, June 3, 1977, 9"X12"
The Finer Womanhood Award from Clark College, April 11, 1975, 7"X9"
Framed certificate of Appreciation, no date


4Distinguished Service Award", The Atlanta Inquirer, 8/28/1970, 12"X14 1/2"
Certificate of Merit, from NAACP Atlanta Branch, Aug. 19, 1975, 9"X12"
certificate - EOA Nash Washington Neighborhood Center, 12/4/1973, 1/2"X10 1/2"
Citizens Neighborhood Advisory Council of J. F. K., 11/23/1976, 9"X12"
Certificate of Appreciation, from Black Women's Coalition of Atlanta, 03/14/1978, 9"X12"
from Basic Communications & WIGO, n.d., 9"X12"
Photograph of Dorothy Bolden shaking hand with a man, 8-1/2 "X 10-1/2"
Photograph of Ms. Bolden and U.S. Secretary of Transportation., 5"x3-1/2


5Community Services Administration, July 30, 1981, 11"X14"
A metal framed Community Service Award.
From Georgia Coalition of Black Women, Inc., June 22, 1984, 11"X 13"
Simpson Woods Community Improvement Association, May 25, 1979, 9"X12"
Photograph mounted on wood,- Ms. Dorothy Bolden and Mr. Herman Talmadge, 12"X14"
From Who's Who in America, 1976/1977, 8 1/2"X 11"
From Who's Who of America Women, 1977/1978, 8"X10"
from Who's Who in America Publications Board, 1978/79, 8 1/2"X10 1/2"


6Proclamation, from America Biographical Institute, Feb. 15, 1978, 9"X12"
In Appreciation, from United-Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, 1986-'87, 7-1/2"X9 1/2"
Essence Communications, December 9, 1982, 7"X9"
from Sis. Clara Muhammad Elementary School, September 8, 1979, 6" X7"
From class of 1979. CLC., 4"X6"
From CMH Advocacy Committee AUSSW, 1983, 7"X9"
Certificate of Merit (red background), no date given, 11"X13 1/2"

Series VI: Artifacts, 1968-1996

These are some gifts, which were given to Ms. Bolden during her years of service.


7A crystal human head trophy - Maybelline Shades of You" Salute to You, 1992
NDW fashion pin, inscribed "Professional Household Workers of America 1968", 1968
Medallion with inscription that reads, "Breakfast of Champions"
Medallion with inscription that reads, Black Woman Pioneer, Atlanta, Ga.
An empty blue pin case


81 framed portrait of Mrs. Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson: Medium - pencil drawing, artist - LeRoy, 1996, 191/2" X 24" (framed), 10 1/2" x 14" unframed