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Housewives League of Detroit

The Housewives League of Detroit was formed in 1930 by Fannie B. Peck, wife of Reverend Dr. William Peck of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Its purpose was to help Detroit’s black merchants.  It formed at the height of the Depression when bigger and healthier businesses were suffering.  The goal of the organization was to convince black Detroit housewives to patronize black businesses.  By patronizing black businesses, this in turn would channel enough money into them to survive, build, and provide jobs for the city’s youths.  To join, all you had to do was to commit to supporting black businesses, buy black products, patronize black professionals, and keep money in the black community.

The original group started out with 50 members and over time expanded to 500 active members with 12,000 pledges of support from black Detroit housewives. 

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Helen Malloy was a founding member.  She was also the adopted mother of Betty Shabazz (who was the wife of Malcom X) and the wife of Lorenzo Malloy who owned Malloy’s Better Shoe Repair Shop at 3409 Hastings St.  Betty Shabazz remembered, “My mother was a great believer in prayer.  But she always said that when you finished praying, you’ve got to work.”  

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Helen Malloy

The Housewives League of Detroit went door to door urging people to buy black.  Twice a year, they put on a trade week campaign that infused more than $100,000 into black Detroit businesses during the 40s and 50s. 

In addition to their spending campaigns, the group sponsored organized consumer education programs in the city and formed youth groups to educate on history and to teach the importance of economic self-support.

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As blacks gained civil rights overtime, the league began to dwindle after 1954.  Although this occurred, their impact on black businesses was felt by many years later.  Former Michigan Secretary of State Richard Austin remembered the work of the Housewives League of Detroit fondly.  He was working during the Great Depression attempting to establish himself as the state’s first black certified public accountant.  Austin recalled how the League effectively worked together as a “band of non-violent militants to promote patronage of black-owned businesses.”

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