Josephine Fellows Gomon papers  1913-1975
Summary Information
Title: Josephine Fellows Gomon papers
Creator: Gomon, Josephine Fellows, 1892-1975.
Inclusive dates: 1913-1975
Extent: 10 linear feet
Extent: 2 oversize volumes
Abstract:
Executive secretary to Detroit Mayor Frank Murphy, 1930-1933, chairwoman of the Mayor's Unemployment Committee, later director of the Detroit Housing Commission, candidate for Detroit public office, and director of women personnel at the Willow Run Bomber Plant during World War II. Correspondence and diaries concerning the Murphy mayoralty, Clarence Darrow and the Ossian Sweet Murder Trial of 1925, and local Detroit politics; and photographs.
Call number: 85710 Aa 2; AC
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
e-mail: bentley.ref@umich.edu
Home Page: http://www.bentley.umich.edu/
Finding aid author: Finding aid created by Michigan Historical Collections staff

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection was donated by Josephine Gomon (Donor No. 5511) in several installments beginning in 1974. Additional donations have since been made by family members.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.

Copyright:

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

Preferred Citation:

[item], folder, box, Josephine Fellows Gomon papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Biography

Josephine Fellows Gomon was born in Ann Arbor of Mary Walsh and Augustus W. Fellows and lived there until 1913, when she graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in mathematics. She taught mathematics and physics at the College of the City of Detroit, now Wayne State University. In 1916, she married R. Louis Gomon, a University of Michigan engineering graduate. They had five children, including Bobby Lou (Mrs. Frederick Dewey); William; Howard Garner, who was killed in World War II; Jeanne (Mrs. Guy Nunn); and R. Louis, Jr. While raising her family, Mrs. Gomon taught throughout the Detroit public school system, wrote a child education column for The Detroit News, and worked for the local Planned Parenthood league.

In the 1920s, Mrs. Gomon met Clarence Darrow, and their friendship continued throughout the Ossian Sweet trial in Detroit and up until the time of his death. The Recorders Court Judge who presided over that trial was Frank Murphy, who was also a graduate of the University of Michigan. In 1930, Mrs. Gomon worked on Murphy's campaign for mayor of Detroit and upon his election to that office became his executive secretary and chaired the Mayor's Unemployment Committee.

When Murphy went to the Philippines in 1933, Mrs. Gomon was appointed the director of the newly established Detroit Housing Commission by Acting Mayor John Smith. Brewster and Parkside Houses were built during her term in office. She left that position in 1938, and worked in private business until 1941, when she was appointed by Harry Bennett of the Ford Motor Company as Director of Women Personnel at the newly constructed Willow Run bomber plant. In this capacity she fought for industrial safety, day care centers, and helped in the planning and construction of war workers' housing. In 1929, 1935, and 1941, Mrs. Gomon ran for elective office in the city of Detroit, the first election for the Board of Education and the other two for Common Council. Although she met defeat in every campaign, she received substantial electoral support throughout the city and was one of the first women to run for public office in Detroit.

From 1945 to 1948, she conducted a radio program on WKMH called "Opinion Unlimited." In 1948, her husband, R. Louis Gomon, died. Until her death in 1975, Mrs. Gomon participated in campaigns for social welfare and human rights through her memberships in the Americans for Democratic Action, NAACP, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In 1960, she was honored at a tribute dinner which was attended by nearly every well-known political and governmental figures in the state of Michigan. A year later, Wayne State University gave Mrs. Gomon an honorary degree commemorating her long years of service to the city and the state.

In her later years, Mrs. Gomon attempted to write two major works. The first was a biography of Frank Murphy. The second project dealt with Henry Ford and Harry Bennett.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Josephine Gomon papers have been divided into the following series: Correspondence; Clippings/Scrapbooks; Notebooks of news items; Diaries; Biographical/Personal; Materials concerning Frank Murphy; Materials related to Gomon's projected biography of Frank Murphy; Ford Motor Company materials; Photographs.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.


    Subjects:
    • Darrow, Clarence, 1857-1938.
    • Depressions--1929--Michigan--Detroit.
    • Detroit (Mich.). Housing Commission.
    • Detroit (Mich.). Mayor.
    • Detroit (Mich.). Mayor's Unemployment Relief Committee.
    • Gomon, Josephine Fellows, 1892-1975.
    • Michigan--Politics and government--1929-1938.
    • Sweet, Ossian, 1895-1960.
    • Willow Run Bomber Plant.
    • Women in politics--Michigan.
    • World War, 1939-1945.
    • Michigan--Politics and government--1837-1950.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • African Americans--Michigan.
    • Banquets.
    • Bennett, Harry Herbert, 1892-1979.
    • Coughlin, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1891-1979.
    • Crowds.
    • Detroit (Mich.)--Mayors.
    • Detroit (Mich.)--1935.
    • Dwellings--Michigan--Harbor Beach.
    • Gomon, Josephine Fellows, 1892-1975.
    • Governors--Michigan.
    • Harbor Beach (Mich.)--Dwellings.
    • Horseback riding.
    • Housing.
    • Mayors--Michigan--Detroit.
    • Michigan. Legislature.
    • Murphy, Frank, 1890-1949.
    • Political elections.
    • Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962.
    • Smoking.
    • Women--Political life.
    Contributors:
    • Arnow, Harriette Louisa Simpson, 1908-1986.
    • Barnes, Harry Elmer, 1889-1968.
    • Bowles, George Edward, 1915-
    • Brickley, James E., 1927-
    • Bumgardner, Eleanor M. (Eleanor Margaret)
    • Carey, Ed.
    • Cavanagh, Jerome Patrick, 1928-1979.
    • Downs, Tom, 1916-
    • Edwards, George, 1914-
    • Ferency, Zolton A., 1922-1993
    • FitzGerald, Frank.
    • Girardin, Ray, d. 1971.
    • Griffin, Robert P. (Robert Paul), 1923-2015
    • Hart, Philip A. (Philip Aloysius), 1912-1976.
    • Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978.
    • Knight, John Shively, 1894-1981.
    • McNamara, Patrick Vincent, 1894-1966.
    • Milliken, William G., 1922-
    • Murphy, Frank, 1890-1949.
    • Murphy, George, 1897-1961.
    • Ravitz, Mel, 1924-
    • Reuther, Walter, 1907-1970.
    • Riegle, Donald W., 1938-
    • Romney, George W., 1907-1995.
    • Romney, Lenore LaFount.
    • Souris, Theodore, 1925-
    • Staebler, Neil, 1905-2000
    • Sugar, Maurice, 1891-1974.
    • Taylor, Hobart, 1920-1981.
    • Van Wagoner, Murray Delos, 1898-
    • Woodcock, Leonard.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    • Photographs.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
     
    Correspondence [series]

    Mrs. Gomon's correspondence is very rich. The World War II period is particularly well documented by a series of almost daily letters written by Mrs. Gomon to her children. The letters of Mrs. Gomon's son-in-law, Guy Nunn, are also very informative about the situation in post-World War II Germany and the V.F.W. in the early 1950s.

     
    By date
    Box   1  
     1915-1945 undated (51 folders)
    Box   2  
     1946-1965 (55 folders)
    Box   3  
     1966-1971 (46 folders)
    Box   4  
     1972-1975 (14 folders)
     
    By name
    Box   4  
    Cline, Leonard  1920s
    Box   4  
    Moody, Blair  1930s
    Box   4  
    Prevost, Cliff  1930s
     
    Clippings/Scrapbooks [series]

    The scrapbooks represent a very useful collection of newspaper clippings dealing with public housing in Detroit between 1933 and 1937 and, again, are particularly useful because no published indexes are available for the papers clipped.

    Box   4  
     1930-1975 undated (17 folders)
    Oversize Volume   1  
    Scrapbooks  1933-1937 primarily relating to public housing in Detroit
    Oversize Volume   2  
    Scrapbooks  1933-1937 primarily relating to public housing in Detroit

    (continued)

     
    Notebooks of news items [series]

    Mrs. Gomon took extensive notes on a variety of subjects that interested her. The notebooks she kept on various newspapers reporting about political and social events are particularly valuable since the newspapers in question are, with the exception of the New York Times, not indexed.

     
    Detroit News
    Box   4  
     1910

    (Mayoral election)

    Box   4  
     1920

    (Recorders' Court, Edward J. Jeffries, Sr.)

    Box   4  
     1921
    Box   4  
     January 1923-March 1923

    ("Big Four" election, cont.)

    Box   4  
     July-December 1923
    Box   4  
     December 1923-February 1924
    Box   4  
     January-July 1924
    Box   4  
     November 1924
    Box   4  
     January-November 1925

    (Ossian Sweet case)

    Box   4  
     November 1925-May 1926
    Box   4  
     September 1929-January 1930
    Box   4  
     January 1930
    Box   4  
     February-April 1930
    Box   4  
     April-June 1930
    Box   4  
     May-August 1930

    (Bowles recall; Buckley murder)

    Box   4  
     June 1930-February 1931 (5 folders)
    Box   5  
     February 1931-March 1937 (20 folders)

    (lacking 1934-1935)

     
    Detroit Times
    Box   5  
     January 1923-June 1932 (22 folders)

    (July-September 1923 notebook includes March 1937)

    Box   6  
     June 1932-January 1937 (4 folders)

    (lacking May 1933-August 1936; December 1936 notebook includes Detroit News, March 1933)

     
    Detroit Free Press
    Box   6  
     March-July 1930
    Box   6  
     September-October 1930
    Box   6  
     1937
    Box   6  
     May 1937
    Box   6  
    Manila Bulletin,  April-June 1933
     
    Manila Tribune
    Box   6  
     February 1933-June 1936 (6 folders)

    (lacking December 1934-January 1936)

     
    New York Times
    Box   6  
     1930
    Box   6  
     February-March 1937
    Box   6  
     March-April 1937 (2 folders)
     
    Diaries [series]

    Mrs. Gomon began keeping a diary in 1913. While its quality varies from year to year, she continued it without interruption for almost 60 years. The diaries offer insight both into her character and the events in which she was involved.

    Box   6  
     1912
    Box   6  
     1913 (2 volumes)
    Box   6  
     1914
    Box   6  
     1915-1916
    Box   6  
     1918
    Box   6  
     1919-1920
    Box   6  
     1922
    Box   6  
     1925 (comments concerning Clarence Darrow)
    Box   6  
     1925 (concerning Sweet case)
    Box   6  
     1925 (Women's Campaign Committee)
    Box   6  
     October 1925-November 1932 (11 folders)

    (lacking January 1928-December 1929)

    Box   7  
     May 1932-1973 (40 folders)

    (lacking 1928-1929, January-February 1932, June-July 1932, November 1953)

    Box   8  
     1974 (2 folders)
     
    Biographical/Personal [series]

    The Biographical/Personal series concerns awards and honors received, speeches given, miscellaneous writings, and family matters.

    Box   8  
    Awards and Citations
    Box   8  
    Funeral guest register  November 1975
    Box   8  
    Gomon Political campaign materials
    Box   8  
    Gomon Marriage certificate
    Box   8  
    Fellows family of Ann Arbor
    Box   8  
    Interview (UM-WSU Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations)  1959
    Box   8  
    Michigan Women's Hall of Fame  1983 (includes photographs)
    Box   8  
    Miscellaneous papers
    Box   8  
    Notebooks of reviews of books (3 items)
    Box   8  
    Notebooks of miscellaneous materials, especially writings and random thoughts (14 items)
    Box   8  
    Speech to the Michigan ACLU Sixth Annual Dinner  1968
     
    Wayne State Univ. Honorary Degree  1961
    Box   8  
    Program and Degree

    (includes photograph)

    Box   8  
    Congratulatory Correspondence
     
    Writings
    Box   8  
    Detroit
    Box   8  
    Ford
    Box   8  
    Lodge, John C.
    Box   8  
    Murphy, Frank miscellaneous
    Box   8  
    Miscellaneous writings
     
    Materials concerning Frank Murphy [series]

    Mrs. Gomon accumulated significant primary material from her association with Frank Murphy. This includes speeches of Frank Murphy, clippings about him, and other materials. Also included in this series is a group of nine intimate letters (1932-1933) addressed to Murphy from Louise Victoria (surname unknown). These letters had been torn in small pieces by someone and saved by Gomon. They were reconstructed by Bentley Library conservation staff in 2013.

    Box   8  
    Speeches  August 1930-November 1932
    Box   8  
    Speeches  undated, mayoral (3 folders)
    Box   9  
    Speeches  undated, mayoral (8 folders)
    Box   9  
    Materials  1931 Mayor's Unemployment Committee
     
    Materials  1932 United States Conference of Mayors in Detroit
    Box   9  
    Proceedings
    Box   9  
    Correspondence
    Box   9  
    Materials  1933 Report into Causes of Strike at Briggs Manufacturing Co.
    Box   9  
    Miscellaneous papers regarding Mayoralty
    Box   9  
    Speeches  1933-1938
    Box   9  
    Sit-down strike  1937
    Box   9  
    U.S. Senate Subcommittee hearing concerning appointment to Supreme Court
    Box   9  
    Clippings
    Box   9  
    Correspondence, reconstructed  1932-1933 (9 folders)
    Box   9  
    Correspondence, unreconstructed  1932-1933
     
    Materials related to Gomon's projected biography of Frank Murphy (never published) [series]

    The draft of Mrs. Gomon's projected biography of Frank Murphy is also found in the collection. This work is particularly strong in its discussion of Murphy's years in Detroit and his term of office as governor of Michigan.

    Box   9  
    Correspondence from Curtis Brown, Ltd. (publisher)
     
    Correspondence from Murphy associates
    Box   9  
     April 1951
    Box   9  
     May-November 1951
    Box   9  
     1952
    Box   9  
    Outline of biography
    Box   9  
    Notes for biography (3 folders)
     
    Drafts
    Box   9  
    Early family history to "Big Four" Recorders' Court campaign  1924
    Box   9  
    Ann Arbor-University of Michigan
    Box   9  
    Assistant District Attorney
    Box   9  
    Recorders Court campaign
    Box   9  
    Recorders Court campaign, Mrs. Lewen: The Twentieth Century Club
    Box   9  
    Recorders Court term: Sweet case
    Box   9  
    Miscellaneous regarding city politics in Detroit before Murphy mayoralty
    Box   9  
    Mayoralty campaign
    Box   9  
    Mayoralty (3 folders)
    Box   10  
    Mayoral re-election (4 folders)
    Box   10  
    Mayoral Second Term
    Box   10  
     1932 State Democratic Convention
    Box   10  
    Mayoral Second Term: Briggs Strike
    Box   10  
    City Finances
    Box   10  
    Philippines
    Box   10  
    Campaign for Governor
    Box   10  
    Governor
    Box   10  
    Governor: Sit down strike, General Motors
    Box   10  
    Governor: Sit down strike, pp.1-50
    Box   10  
    Governor: Sit down strike, pp. 51-114
    Box   10  
    Governor: More sit down strikes
    Box   10  
    Governor: Labor
    Box   10  
    Supreme Court appointment
    Box   10  
    Recall in Detroit
    Box   10  
    History of Michigan Politics
    Box   10  
    "What Makes Frank Murphy Tick?"
    Box   10  
    "Matters Affecting the Democrat Party in Michigan"-Peter Fogan
    Box   10  
    "Messiah or Mortal" (re: Frank Murphy)-Harry Meade
    Box   10  
    "My Friend" (Frank Murphy); Recollections regarding prohibition in Detroit
    Box   10  
    Outline of Murphy biography
    Box   10  
    "Frank Murphy and His Women"
    Box   10  
    Notes for biography (3 folders)
    Box   10  
    "Mr. Justice Murphy's Contribution to Law"-Thurgood Marshall
    Box   10  
    "Mr. Justice Murphy, Humanitarian, Administrator, Dissenting Jurist"-Hillmer Gellein
     
    Ford Motor Company materials [series]

    Josephine Gomon also intended to publish a work about Henry Ford. It dealt with Ford during the World War II period while Mrs. Gomon was working at Willow Run. She was particularly close to Harry Bennett, and through him, Henry Ford. Her writing is particularly interesting because she is sympathetic to both Ford and Bennett.

    Box   10  
    Reminiscences, especially relating to Harry Bennett (3 folders)
    Box   10  
    "The Poor Mr. Ford" unpublished manuscript
    Box   10  
    "The Poor Mr. Ford" drafts (8 folders)
     
    Photographs [series]

    The photographs include portraits of Mrs. Gomon as well as posed and un-posed photos of guests at the 1960 dinner honoring her. Also included are miscellaneous photos from Frank Murphy's career.

    Box   10  
    Portraits, formal and informal
    Box   10  
    Testimonial banquet  December 9, 1960 (2 folders)
    Box   10  
    Miscellaneous (including photo of J. Gomon with Harry Bennett)
     
    Frank Murphy
    Box   10  
    As mayor of Detroit
     
    As governor of Michigan
    Box   10  
    Photos relating to auto strike negotiations
    Box   10  
    Miscellaneous (including photos of Frank Murphy with Father Coughlin)
    Box   10  
    Memorabilia
    Box   10  
    Miscellaneous and  undated
    Box   10  
    Eleanor Roosevelt visit to Detroit  1935
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Selective Index to Correspondents
    Arnow, Harriette Louisa Simpson, 1908-1986.
    • June 15,1961; July 13,1961; Sept. 16,1961; Sept. 23,1961; 1962; Feb. 21,1963; June 6,1963; undated,1964; Jan. 12,1964; Aug. 8,1964; Jan. 12,1966; undated,1967; Feb.,1967; Apr. 4,1967; Nov. 18,1967; undated,1968; Aug. 3,1968.
    Barnes, Harry Elmer, 1889-1968
    • Sept. 2, 1963.
    Bowles, George Edward, 1915-
    • Feb. 1, 1962; Jan. 27, 1968; May 2, 1968.
    Brickley, James, 1927-
    • Jan. 18, 1965; Feb. 4, 1965; Jan. 21, 1970.
    Bumgardner, Eleanor M. (Eleanor Margaret)
    • Dec. 2, 1969.
    Carey, Ed.
    • Feb. 18, 1964; Mar. 30, 1964.
    Cavanagh, Jerome Patrick, 1928-1979.
    • Feb. 21,1964; Sept. 15,1964; Jan. 6,1965; June 22,1965; Aug. 18,1965; June 10,1966; Jan. 24,1967; Aug. 16,1967; Apr. 19,1968; May 9,1968; May 17,1968; May 29,1968; May 9,1969; Nov. 6,1969; Apr. 9,1973.
    Darrow, Ruby
    • Nov. 29, 1929.
    Downs, Tom, 1916-
    • Sept. 7, 1964; Sept. 18, 1964; Oct. 4, 1964; Nov. 5, 1966.
    Edwards, George, 1914-
    • Mar. 29, 1964; Dec. 8, 1972.
    Ferency, Zolton A., 1922-
    • Feb. 24, 1964; Apr. 14, 1970; June 11, 1970.
    FitzGerald, Frank
    • Apr. 14, 1959.
    Girardin, Ray, d. 1971.
    • Jan. 21, 1963; Oct. 7, 1964; Dec. 7, 1964; Oct. 17, 1967.
    Griffin, Robert P. (Robert Paul), 1923-
    • Sept. 30, 1968; Feb. 25, 1970; Apr. 13, 1970; Sept. 28,1973.
    Hart, Philip A. (Philip Aloysius), 1912-1976.
    • 1963; Feb. 11,1964; Feb. 26,1964; May 29,1964; Feb. 12,1965; Apr. 2,1965; May 12,1967; Sept. 30,1968; Apr. 25,1968; June 25,1968; Aug. 3,1971; Sept. 24,1974.
    Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978.
    • Aug. 20, 1963; May 19, 1964.
    Knight, John Shively, 1894-1981.
    • July 30,1965; Nov. 24,1965; Dec. 31,1965; Sept. 9,1966; Oct. 24,1966; Nov. 10,1966; May 1,1967; July 8,1974; Mar. 13,1975.
    McNamara, Patrick Vincent, 1894-1966
    • Nov. 29, 1963; Apr. 5, 1965; July 7, 1965; Nov. 16, 1965.
    Milliken, William G., 1922-
    • Aug. 19, 1971; Feb. 10, 1971; Mar. 21, 1972; Nov. 28, 1972; Sept. 11, 1974.
    Murphy, Frank, 1890-1949
    • Apr. 25,1929; Apr. 24,1933; Apr. 26,1933; May 6,1935; Aug. 5,1935; June 18,1936; July 14,1937; May 17,1937; May 28,1937; June 2,1937; Nov. 3,1937; Mar. 3,1938; Aug. 27,1941; Apr. 24,1948; Dec. 25,1948; June 6,1949.
    Murphy, George, 1897-1961
    • Jan. 17, 1955; Jan. 8, 1959; Feb. 6, 1959; Apr. 3, 1959.
    Ravitz, Mel, 1924-
    • Apr. 14, 1964; May 19, 1964; Feb. 6, 1967; Nov. 23, 1970; Dec. 11, 1970; July 8, 1970; Apr. 13, 1971.
    Reuther, Walter, 1907-1970.
    • June 20, 1960.
    Riegle, Donald W., 1938-
    • July 19, 1971; May 21, 1971; Dec. 23,1972.
    Romney, George W., 1907-1995.
    • Dec. 11,1959; Nov. 3,1961; Nov. 17,1961; Dec. 29,1961; Feb. 19,1962; July 9,1963; Nov. 1,1963; Mar. 23,1964; Aug. 14,1964; June 2,1965; Aug. 27,1965; Sept. 2,1965; July 27,1966; Oct. 11,1966; Apr. 10,1967; Aug. 19,1968; Jan. 3,1973.
    Romney, Lenore LaFount.
    • May 4, 1970; Nov. 14, 1970; Sept. 10, 1972.
    Souris, Theodore, 1925-
    • June 27,1960; Dec. 3,1960; Nov. 15,1961; Oct. 26,1964; Dec. 9,1964; Apr. 15,1968.
    Staebler, Neil, 1905-
    • May 6, 1963; Mar. 5, 1964.
    Sugar, Maurice, 1891-1974
    • Jan. 15, 1970.
    Taylor, Hobart, 1920-1981.
    • Jan. 21, 1965.
    Van Wagoner, Murray Delos, 1898-
    • Nov. 6, 1963.
    Woodcock, Leonard.
    • Dec. 1, 1970; Feb. 25, 1975.