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
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 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:

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

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.


  • Depressions -- 1929 -- Michigan -- Detroit.
  • Michigan -- Politics and government -- 1929-1938.
  • Women in politics -- Michigan.
  • World War, 1939-1945.
  • Michigan -- Politics and government -- 1837-1950.
  • African Americans -- Michigan.
  • Banquets.
  • Crowds.
  • Detroit (Mich.) -- Mayors.
  • Detroit (Mich.) -- 1935.
  • Dwellings -- Michigan -- Harbor Beach.
  • Governors -- Michigan.
  • Harbor Beach (Mich.) -- Dwellings.
  • Horseback riding.
  • Housing.
  • Mayors -- Michigan -- Detroit.
  • Political elections.
  • Smoking.
  • Women -- Political life.
  • Diaries.
  • Photographs.
  • Darrow, Clarence, 1857-1938.
  • Detroit (Mich.). Housing Commission.
  • Detroit (Mich.). Mayor.
  • Detroit (Mich.). Mayor's Unemployment Relief Committee.
  • Gomon, Josephine Fellows, 1892-1975.
  • Sweet, Ossian, 1895-1960.
  • Willow Run Bomber Plant.
  • Bennett, Harry Herbert, 1892-1979.
  • Coughlin, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1891-1979.
  • Gomon, Josephine Fellows, 1892-1975.
  • Michigan. Legislature.
  • Murphy, Frank, 1890-1949.
  • Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962.
  • 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, -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.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
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 primarily relating to public housing in Detroit 1933-1937
Oversize Volume   2  
Scrapbooks primarily relating to public housing in Detroit 1933-1937

(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 (includes photographs) 1983
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 , mayoral undated (3 folders)
Box   9  
Speeches , mayoral undated (8 folders)
Box   9  
Materials Mayor's Unemployment Committee 1931
 
Materials United States Conference of Mayors in Detroit 1932
Box   9  
Proceedings
Box   9  
Correspondence
Box   9  
Materials Report into Causes of Strike at Briggs Manufacturing Co. 1933
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  
State Democratic Convention 1932
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.