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Housewives League of Detroit

The Housewives League of Detroit was formed in 1930 by Fannie B. Peck, the wife of Reverend Dr. William Peck of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Its purpose was to assist Detroit’s black merchants. The league emerged at the height of the Depression, when larger and healthier businesses were suffering. The organization aimed to persuade black Detroit housewives to support black-owned businesses. By doing so, they hoped to channel enough money into these enterprises to enable them to survive, grow, and create job opportunities for the city’s youths. To join, one simply had to commit to supporting black businesses, purchasing black products, utilizing black professionals, and circulating money within the black community.

The original group began with 50 members and gradually expanded to 500 active members, with an additional 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 organized trade week campaigns that infused more than $100,000 into black-owned businesses during the 1940s and 1950s.

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 teach the importance of economic self-support.

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As blacks gained civil rights over time, the league began to dwindle after 1954. However, their impact on black businesses was felt for many years afterward. Former Michigan Secretary of State Richard Austin fondly remembered the work of the Housewives League of Detroit. During the Great Depression, while 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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