FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct 13, 2023
Contact: Daniela Perez, [email protected]
Atlanta, GA – Today, the National Domestic Workers Alliance celebrates Dorothy Bolden, a trailblazer in the modern domestic worker movement. As a Black house cleaner and civil rights leader, she organized over 10,000 workers through the National Domestic Workers Union in the US South in the 1960s and fought for better working conditions at the height of the civil rights movement. We continue our fight for worker rights in her legacy and recognize that without her leadership, all domestic workers, particularly Black women, would face even more exploitation and racist exclusions from labor protections.
A statement from the National Domestic Workers Alliance is below.
“Today, October 13th, the National Domestic Workers Alliance celebrates Dorothy Bolden, a remarkable leader who forever changed the lives of domestic workers throughout America.
Born nearly a century ago, Dorothy Bolden’s journey as an activist and leader began at nine, working as a domestic worker and shouldering responsibilities beyond her years. Drawing from her experiences, she founded the Domestic Workers Union in Atlanta, Georgia, empowering thousands of women to secure better pay and improved working conditions. Her vision left an indelible mark on the domestic worker and civil rights movement, boosting what we now know as the modern-day labor movement.
Like many of us at NDWA, Dorothy Bolden viewed domestic workers as counselors, healers, and caretakers deeply committed to the families they served, who were critical to our economy, society, and democracy. Yet, their contributions have often been overlooked in the workforce.
While challenges persist, progress has been made. Dorothy Bolden’s legacy paved the way for Domestic Worker Bill of Rights legislation in 10 states and four cities, with the Federal Domestic Worker Bill of Rights on the horizon. We continue to reshape the narrative of domestic work and honor its valiant history.
Many of us have personal connections to this history, carrying the legacies of domestic workers in our families and ancestry. Although they work in the seclusion of our homes, domestic workers are a visible and indispensable part of our lives. They are leaders within our families, communities, and within NDWA.
Though we recognize Dorothy Bolden Day as a holiday in Philadelphia, we acknowledge a long-overdue national reckoning in how we support and lift domestic workers in our nation. The domestic workforce, primarily comprised of Black, Brown, and immigrant women, faces economic hardships, wage theft, retaliation, and workplace hazards. These issues extend beyond labor, encompassing civil rights, women’s rights, and family stability. The We Dream in Black’s (WeDiB) Unbossed Agenda, launched in 2020, focuses on empowering diverse Black domestic workers among our nation’s most essential yet unprotected workers.
In recent months, domestic workers have rallied nationwide for their health and safety in California, resisted worker retaliation in Philadelphia, supported striking actors and writers in Hollywood, and stood alongside President Joe Biden for Labor Day. And this weekend, over 50 Black domestic worker leaders from across the country will join We Dream in Black in Atlanta, Georgia, for their first in-person organizing institute since the pandemic – honoring the life and legacy of Bolden. Dorothy Bolden Day is an opportunity for all of us to acknowledge the significance of domestic work, its impact on our lives, and its historical importance. Without her, none of this would be possible.
It’s time to celebrate Dorothy Bolden’s legacy not only in Philadelphia – where it is a holiday – but across the nation. We honor her memory by continuing to reach out to domestic workers, care workers, and families across the country to register them to vote, much like Bolden, and support policies that ensure domestic workers receive the wages, benefits, protections, and dignity they deserve. As we mark Dorothy Bolden’s 100 birthday, let us remember that her work is far from finished, and we are so tremendously proud to carry her legacy forward.”