Celebrate Women’s History Month: Learn about Dolores Huerta

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Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta is an American labor leader and civil rights activist who was an early member of the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers.

Huerta has received numerous awards for her community service and advocacy for the rights of workers, immigrants and women. She is a recipient of the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award, the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Born on April 10, 1930, in the mining town of Dawson, New Mexico, Huerta was the daughter of Juan Fernández (a miner, field/farm worker, union activist and state assemblyman) and Alicia Chávez. The couple divorced when Huerta was 3 years old and Chávez moved to Stockton.

Huerta’s community activism began at Stockton High School, where she was a member of many clubs and the Girl Scouts. Huerta attended college at the University of the Pacific’s Stockton College (later to become San Joaquin Delta Community College), where she earned a provisional teaching credential.

After teaching grammar school, Huerta left her job and began her lifelong crusade to correct economic injustice. In 1955, Huerta officially began her career as an activist by helping to start the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization, which fought for economic improvements for Latinos.

In 1966, she negotiated a contract between company executives and workers at the Schenley Wine Company, marking the first time that farm workers were able to effectively bargain with an agricultural enterprise.

Through her work, Huerta met legendary labor leader César Chávez. The two shared a common goal of helping better the lives and wages of farm workers. Many great things came from this friendship, such as the National Farm Workers Association, which would later merge with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to become the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee.

On June 5, 1968, Huerta stood beside Senator Robert F. Kennedy on a speaker’s platform at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles as he delivered a victory statement to his political supporters shortly after winning the California Democratic presidential primary election. She was behind Kennedy when he was fatally shot by an assassin.

In later years, Huerta traversed the country on behalf of the Feminist Majority’s Feminization of Power campaign, which encourages Latinas to run for office.

Huerta is currently president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which she founded in 2002.

 As a role model to many in the Latino community, Huerta is the subject of many corridos (ballads) and murals.