Detroit, Michigan, attorney, Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1955-1974, and member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Congressional papers, arranged by term, include legislative files, bills files, topical files, schedules, sound recordings, photographs, motion pictures, and scrapbooks. The collection details relationship with colleagues and constituents and pertains to committee activities, legislation sponsored, and issues of the day. Topics of interest include civil rights, the war in Vietnam, Sleeping Bear Dunes, the humane slaughtering of animals, the economy and the fiscal policy of the federal government, women's rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, economic problems of women, and the need for national health insurance legislation.
The Griffiths collection consists primarily of correspondence exchanged with constituents and lobbying groups on matters of pending or proposed legislation and on topics of current interest. The collection's great value is its documentation of the workings of this one congressional office and its perspective on the issues confronting the nation in the period of 1955 to 1974. With the Democrats in control of the Congress, these years witnessed legislative efforts to use the power of the Federal Government to rectify the ills of society on matters of civil rights, assistance to the poor, health care for the aged, environmental protection, and so forth. It was also a time of strife in society resulting from the war in Vietnam, tension among the races, and the Watergate crisis. The Griffiths collection documents these issues with letters from constituents and her response to the concerns of the people.
Beyond general issues, the Griffiths papers have importance for their documentation of the specific contribution of this one woman member of Congress, who served for twenty years, and who was rewarded by her colleagues with increasingly responsible committee positions. Especially significant was her appointment to the powerful Ways and Means Committee under the chairmanship of Wilbur Mills. Griffiths' files from her work on W and Means Committee detail the major pieces of tax reform legislation of the 1960s, notably Griffiths' efforts to legislate some equity into the benefits accorded to American women.
The Martha W. Griffiths papers, with few exceptions, have been maintained in the arrangement scheme used by the Griffiths office.