Mable Payne Young, a mother of nine who helped organize job benefits for domestic workers such as herself, died of a stroke Tuesday at Maryland General Hospital. The lifelong Baltimore resident was 93.
Orphaned at birth in Baltimore, the former Mable Diggs was raised by a neighbor. She attended city schools through the eighth grade, when she left to help support her adoptive family.
She became a domestic worker, tending to the homes and families of others while caring for her husband, Russell Payne, and raising her children.
"Like many women of color at that time, domestic work was one of the few jobs available," said her youngest son, former state Sen. Larry Young.
She was widowed twice. Mr. Payne, a chef, died in 1967, and her second husband, George Young, died more than 20 years ago.
Known to many as Ms. Mable, she would take an early morning bus to homes in Pikesville or Catonsville and work long days, often preparing the family's evening meal before catching another bus home and repeating most of her tasks for her own family. She often worked six days a week and rarely took a vacation.
She rode with Carrie King, a lifelong friend and fellow domestic worker. The two, who would discuss ways to improve their jobs, eventually founded the Domestic Workers Union, which sought protections and compensation for workers injured on the job. An accident during a snowstorm on her way home from work made Mrs. Young acutely aware of the precarious nature of her employment. When she was unable to work for three months, her employers offered to keep her job open but provided no compensation.
The union grew to about 40 members and remained active through the early 1980s, Mr. Young said.
His mother's economic struggles had a profound effect on her youngest son, a state legislator for 23 years until 1998. Soon after he took office in 1975, then-Delegate Young sponsored the first piece of legislation in the country to make domestic workers eligible for the Workmen's Compensation Act. Mrs. Young watched with her son as the bill was signed into law.
She personally met with all Maryland's governors from Marvin Mandel through Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and was invited to the White House twice to meet Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
"Whenever anyone asked who my guest would be at the State House or the White House, I would say, `My guest is my momma,'" Mr. Young said. "I would make sure she met everyone."
Throughout her life, Mrs. Young insisted on wearing a net over her neatly coiffed hair and always made sure her shoes and purse matched her outfit.
"She never was a hat person," Mr. Young said. "We wanted her to show off her hair, but she never would."
In her retirement, Mrs. Young could finally indulge her love of travel. She visited New York annually, usually before the Christmas holidays, and traveled frequently out West and to the Caribbean.
"Her favorite sight was the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center," Mr. Young said. "Then she would take in a show, and she had her favorite shopping stops."
Mrs. Young was an ardent Orioles fan and often attended games as a guest of the team owner, Peter G. Angelos. She also was a devotee of daytime television, rarely missing The Price Is Right.
She and Mr. Young routinely attended two church services every Sunday and then enjoyed brunch together. They would first visit New Shiloh Baptist, her home church, where she was a deaconess, and then would randomly choose another congregation in the city.
"All the ministers called her `Momma Mable' and all of them will be at her home-going service," said Mr. Young.
Mr. Young, who hosts a radio show, is honoring a promise to his mother that he would make "her homegoing second to none." He expects it to attract public officials and noted entertainers.
"Her family is so grateful for all the love shown to a woman who was a domestic most of her life," he said.
Services are at 11 a.m. tomorrow at New Shiloh Baptist Church, 2100 N. Monroe St.
Survivors include two other sons, Louis Payne of Baltimore and Charles Payne of Chicago; daughters Sarah Cross of Raleigh, N.C., and Henrietta Payne of Baltimore; 37 grandchildren; and 52 great-grandchildren.