Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Fellows Gomon, Josephine

Josephine Fellows Gomon was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on June 29, 1892. Graduating from the University of Michigan in 1913 with a degree in engineering, she moved to Detroit where she taught mathematics and physics at the College of the City of Detroit, now Wayne State University. In 1916, she married U of M engineering graduate Robert Louis Gomon and in the following years taught in the Detroit Public School system. At the same time, she wrote a column about child education for the Detroit News, and worked for the local Planned Parenthood League, becoming president of the Detroit chapter.

Gomon became involved in fighting injustice on many fronts. She met Clarence Darrow, in town to defend the accused in the Ossian Sweet case, and later worked with him on some local civil liberties cases. Her interest in aiding the poor and underprivileged led her to politics.

After running unsuccessfully for the Detroit Board of Education in 1929, Gomon began working for the mayoral campaign of Frank Murphy, a friend from college. Upon his election, he appointed her as his executive secretary and as a chairwoman on the Mayor’s Unemployment Committee. In 1933, she was appointed the director of the Detroit Housing Commission, which was newly established at the time. In 1941, she was appointed by the Ford Motor Company as Director of Women Personnel at the Willow Run bomber plant. Despite working closely with Henry Ford, she also advised Walter Reuther on the creation of the United Automobile Workers. She also ran for Detroit Common Council in 1935 and 1941, but she was never successful. She was one of the first women to run for public office in Detroit, however, and she received substantial support. From 1945 to 1948, she hosted a radio program called “Opinion Unlimited.”

“Jo” Gomon was a hardworking and influential woman who worked to promote the advancement of women and Detroiters. She remained an active participant in campaigns for human rights and social welfare, as a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Americans for Democratic Action, until her death on November 13, 1975.