Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Mahaffey, Maryann

Educator, social worker, and politician Maryann Mahaffey was born in Burlington, Iowa on January 18, 1925. A Detroit City Council member for 32 years, she is recognized for her commitment to women’s issues, racial injustice, and fighting for the underrepresented. She received her bachelor’s degree from Cornell College and went on to earn a master’s degree in social work at the University of Southern California. Later in life, she obtained her doctorate of humanities from the Detroit International School of Ministries.

Mahaffey was elected to the Detroit City Council in 1973. She served as a council member until 2005, and was president from 1990-1998, and 2002-2005. During her time in public service, she was known for championing the rights of everyday citizens and fighting to improve the lives of her constituents. While on the Detroit City Council, Mahaffey developed the first rape crisis center within the Detroit Police Department, and she chaired the City Council Housing Task Force where she stressed the need for low-income housing options.

Concurrently with working on the City Council, Mahaffey served on the faculty at the Wayne State University School of Social Work, from 1965-1990. She was the first woman elected president of the National Association of Social Workers and received the Presidential Award for Exemplary Service to Social Work from that organization. 

Mahaffey was an active participant in the National League of Cities and in 1974 went to China as part of an eight-member delegation. She also chaired the Michigan delegation to the UN Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and served on the National League of Cities board from 1994-1996. She was chair of the Human Development Policy Committee in 1972 and member of Women in Municipal Government, serving as president in 1995.

Mahaffey was the recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Cornell College in 1995 and among other honors has received the ACLU Civil Libertarian Award. The League of Women Voters created the Maryann Mahaffey Community Service Award to identify an individual with an outstanding commitment to their community. She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1997.

Maryann Mahaffey married her husband, Herman Dooha, in 1950. They had one daughter, Susan. Mahaffey died of leukemia at 81 years of age on July 27, 2006. Her papers are at the Walter Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University.



The Metro Times vol. VI, no. 23, featuring Mahaffey, 1986 – 2014.086.011

Program showing a presentation given my Maryann Mahaffey, 1978 - 2012.046.051

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