Huerta speaking at a campaign rally with former President Bill Clinton. Courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Wikipedia
A civil rights icon, a feminist, and one of the most important labor movement leaders of the 20th century.
Born in 1930 to a Mexican immigrant family in a small mining town in New Mexico. When she was 3 years old, her parent got divorced. She moved with her mother and two brothers to Stockton, California, to a diverse farm worker’s community. Growing up, she faced racism and discrimination several times. This and her parent’s activism and kindness inspired and shaped her. She finished high school, got married, had two children, and shortly after, got divorced. She finished studying at the local college and became a teacher. Still, after witnessing the poverty conditions of the farmworkers’ families and their brutal working conditions, she decided to change this injustice and started her activism journey.
At 25 years old, Huerta became one of the leaders of the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO). During this time, she got married, had five children, but later on, she got a divorce. In the CSO, she met her colleague, Cesar Chavez. Both had shared interest in organizing farmworkers, and in 1962, they co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became United Farm Workers’ Union (UFW). Huerta served as its vice president till 1999.
As a UFA leader, Huerta organized, negotiated, and lobbied for the farmworkers. She organized nonviolent rallies, demonstrations, strikes, and boycotts. She stood in the front picket lines facing sexism and sometimes violence. Due to her driving force, the first-ever union contract was signed in 1970. In addition to the fieldwork, she was active at the legislative level, lobbying and promoting California laws to improve immigrants’ and farmworkers’ work conditions. One of her achievements is the 1975 Agricultural Labor Relations Act.
During her 70s, she decided to dedicate her activism to women’s rights and campaign to increase the number of women and Latinas running for office. In 2002, she founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and even in her 80s and 90s, she is still traveling across the country, promoting social justice.
Still an Activist at 82, Dolores Huerta Calls Herself 'a Born-Again Feminist'
In the 1960s, Dolores Huerta organized in the fields -- spearheading a national boycott of grapes and lettuce, and making decent pay and working conditions a reality for thousands of farmers. After receiving a Medal of Freedom Tuesday at the White House, Huerta spoke with Ray Suarez.
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- Growing up, she took violin, piano, and dance lessons, and was a girl scout.
- The farmworkers’ conditions she fought for were not only about the low salary of 70 cents an hour but also for available restrooms, cold drinking water, breaks, and protective gear when dealing with dangerous pesticides.
- During the peak of the nationwide boycott, approximately 17 million people stopped buying grapes.
- At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Huerta formally placed Clinton’s name into nomination.
- President Obama used her famous slogan, Sí se puede — Spanish for “Yes, we can” in his campaign.
- A documentary film, Dolores, released in 2017, chronicles her life, showing her personal sides and the key role she played in the movement.
- She is twice-divorced and has 11 children.
- She got arrested 22 times in nonviolent demonstrations and strikes. In 1988 during a peaceful protest, she was beaten severely, and it took her several months to recover.
- Tens of schools, parks, and streets are named after as well as an asteroid.
- April 10 is designated Dolores Huerta Day in California and Washington states.
- Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights (1998)
- Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship (2002)
- The Presidential Medal of Freedom (2012)
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Still an Activist at 82, Dolores Huerta Calls Herself 'a Born-Again Feminist'In the 1960s, Dolores Huerta organized in the fields -- spearheading a national boycott of grapes and lettuce, and making decent pay and working conditions a reality for thousands of farmers. After receiving a Medal of Freedom Tuesday at the White House, Huerta spoke with Ray Suarez.
This post is also available in: Español