Dorothy Mottley
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Dorothy Mottley

Public Health Nurse


Mrs. Dorothy Jean Mottley was born to Artist and Anthony Woods in Ann Arbor, MI on October 26, 1928. She spent her childhood in Ann Arbor and attended St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School, recalling that she was the only black student in her class. Because of racial tension, she and her sister were sent to a Catholic boarding school in Virginia for a brief time, but Mrs. Mottley returned to graduate from St. Thomas in 1946. With encouragement from her family and friends, Mrs. Mottley entered the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing, New York, NY in 1948 and passed her board exams in 1951. She remained in New York City until 1956, working in the emergency room of Harlem Hospital and taking classes in public health at New York University. She left New York for Detroit in 1956.

Mrs. Mottley chose to work in the public sector in Detroit and took a position as a psychiatric nurse at the Lafayette Clinic from 1956-1958. In the early 1960's, she worked part-time at Providence Hospital, Kirwood Hospital, and in a private OB-GYN practice. In 1963, Mrs. Mottley started working as a staff nurse at the Wayne State University Health Center where she provided care to the students until 1968.

She left Wayne State to work with the newly created Neighborhood Comprehensive Health Services Center (NCHSC), located in the Herman Kiefer Hospital complex. The NCHSC provided free health care to neighborhood residents who could afford health care insurance. Mrs. Mottley supervised the work of nursing assistants in four departments: medicine, surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, and pediatrics.

In 1976, Mrs. Mottley left NCHSC to begin working with the Detroit Health Department as a public health field nurse. At this time, her interest in union issues increased and she was later elected president of the International Nurses Association of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) in 1985. Mrs. Mottley retired from the Detroit Health Department in 1997.

Tape recorded interview;
Detroit, MI
3 June  1997
audio clip
The following excerpt represents Opinions/Observations regarding the demise of black proprietary hospitals:

Interviewer's question: "Getting back to black patients/white hospitals: Do you think that the integration of the hospital system in Detroit caused the demise of the black hospitals, or were there other issues or factors involved?)"

"I'm sure of it. That had to be a factor that the hospitals closed because black patients realized that they could go to majority-owned hospitals, and they were bigger and better, and seemed to provide services that…unlike those in the small Kirwood. Our doctors were then admitted to the staffs. It then made it easier. And I truly believe...I know one of the hospitals, I remember closed because Blue Cross let them get way behind, and then they couldn't pay up when they wanted the money, so they had to close. And I just wonder if they may have...that...I won't say because it doesn't have to be true. But, I know one by one they just folded."


William G. Anderson
Reginald P. Ayala
Arthur W Boddie
Wilma Brakefield-Caldwell
Henry C. Bryant Jr.
Alice Burton
Waldo L. Cain
James W. Collins
Claude and Vivienne Cooper
Gladys B. Dillard
George Gaines Jr.
Leon Gant
Herman J. Glass Sr.
Della Goodwin
Joseph B. Harris
Frank P. Iacobell
Horace L. Jefferson
Sidney B. Jenkins
Arthur Johnson
Rachel B. Keith
William E. Lawson
Josephine Love
Hayward Maben Jr.
Berna C. Mason
Suesetta T. McCree
Dorothy Mottley
David C. Northcross Jr.
Ophelia B. Northcross
Marjorie Peebles-Meyers
Frank P. Raiford III
Rev. Garther Roberson Jr.
Rev. Dr. S. L. Roberson
Elsie Smith
Fannie L. Starks
Lionel F. Swan
Natalia M. Tanner
Oretta Mae Todd
I. Clara Webb
Charles F. Whitten
Charles H. Wright
Watson Young


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Copyright , Kellogg African American Health Care Project, 2000.
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