Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Beck, Mary V.

Detroit politician Mary Virginia Beck was born in Ford City, Pennsylvania in 1908 to Ukrainian immigrants. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a law degree in 1932, and two years later moved to Detroit where she worked as a social worker for the International Institute. She continued in this role for a year before becoming a juvenile court investigator for Wayne County from 1934-1947. Beck was admitted to the Michigan Bar in 1944.

In 1950 Beck was the first woman elected to the Detroit City Council. She remained on the council for 20 years and would go on to be the first woman president pro tempore and president of the Detroit City Council. She filled many roles during her political career and served on a number of committees and commissions. While serving on the Detroit City Council she was also a member of the Wayne County Board of Supervisors and chaired its Ways and Means Committee.

Outside of politics, Beck was deeply involved in the Ukrainian community in diaspora. Her work involved bringing attention to the horrible treatment of Ukraine and other captive states of the Soviet Union. For her work in this regard she was awarded the St. Volodymyr Medal for lifetime achievement in 2003 by the Ukrainian World Congress. She was also a patron of the arts and sponsored artists and writers who were members of the Ukrainian diaspora. Beck would go on to found the Ukrainian Women’s Literary Award in Ukrainian literature as well as serve as an officer of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (UNWLA) for the Detroit branch. Throughout her career she was a prominent speaker, with her speaking tours taking her across the United States and abroad.

Following her retirement from politics in 1970 she was honored by numerous organizations in Detroit for her work, as well as receiving congratulatory letters from two sitting U.S. presidents. Beck was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1991. She died in 2005 at the age of 96.



Mary Virginia Beck

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