Dolores Huerta

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Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta.jpg
Dolores Huerta at the University of Chicago, 2009.
Born Dolores Clara Fernandez
(1930-04-10) April 10, 1930 (age 84)
Dawson, New Mexico
Occupation Labor leader and activist

Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta (born April 10, 1930) is a labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta has received numerous awards for her community service and advocacy for workers', immigrants', and women's rights, including the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award, the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights[1] and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As a role model to many in the Latino community, Huerta is the subject of many corridos (ballads) and murals.

Early life[edit]

Born on April 10, 1930, in the mining town of Dawson, New Mexico, Huerta was the daughter of Juan Fernandez—a miner, field/farm worker, union activist, and state assemblyman—and Alicia Chavez. Huerta was the couple's second child and only daughter; the couple divorced when Huerta was three years old. Chavez raised Huerta and her two brothers, in the central California farm worker community of Stockton, California. Huerta's mother was known for her kindness and compassion towards others and was active in community affairs, numerous civic organizations, and the church. She encouraged the cultural diversity that was a natural part of Huerta's upbringing in Stockton. Alicia Chavez was a businesswoman who owned a restaurant and a 70-room hotel where she welcomed low-wage workers and farm worker families for affordable prices and sometimes even for free. This prompted Huerta to think about civil rights.[2]

Huerta's community activism began when she was a student in Stockton High School. Huerta was active in numerous school clubs and was a majorette and a dedicated member of the Girl Scouts until the age of 18. 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.[3] After teaching grammar school, Huerta left her job and began her lifelong crusade to correct economic injustice:[1]

I couldn't tolerate seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children.

Career as an activist[edit]

Speaking at a rally in Santa Barbara, California on September 24, 2006.

In 1955, Huerta co-founded the Stockton chapter of the Community Service Organization, (CSO) and in 1960 co-founded the Agricultural Workers Association which set up voter registration drives and pressed local governments for barrio improvements.[4] In 1962, she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with César Chávez, which would later become the United Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. In 1966, she negotiated a contract between the UFWOC and Schenley Wine Company, marking the first time that farm workers were able to effectively bargain with an agricultural enterprise.[5] Through her work with the CSO, Huerta met César Chávez, the Executive Director of the CSO. They both soon realized the need to organize farm workers. In 1962, after the CSO turned down Chávez's request, as their president, to organize farm workers, Chávez and Huerta resigned from the CSO. With Chávez, she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association which would later merge with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to become the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee. Huerta's organizing skills were essential to the growth of this budding organization.

In 1965, Huerta directed the UFW's national boycott during the Delano grape strike, taking the plight of the farm workers to the consumers. The boycott resulted in the entire California table grape industry signing a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the United Farm Workers in 1970.[4]

In addition to organizing she has been highly politically active, lobbying in favor of (and against) numerous California and federal laws. The laws that she supported included the following:

As an advocate for farmworkers' rights, Huerta has been arrested twenty-two times for participating in non-violent civil disobedience activities and strikes. She remains active in progressive causes, and serves on the boards of People for the American Way, Consumer Federation of California, and Feminist Majority Foundation.

On June 5, 1968, Huerta stood beside 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. Only moments after the candidate finished his speech, Huerta was a safe distance behind Kennedy as he and five other people were wounded by gunfire inside the hotel's kitchen pantry. Only 15 min before the shooting, Huerta had walked through that pantry alongside the US Senator from New York while Kennedy was on his way to deliver his victory speech. Kennedy died from his gunshot wounds on June 6.

In September 1988, in front of the St. Francis Hotel in Union Square, Huerta was severely beaten by San Francisco Police officers during a peaceful and lawful protest of the policies/platform of then-candidate for president George H.W. Bush. The baton-beating caused significant internal injuries to her torso, resulting in several broken ribs and necessitating the removal of her spleen in emergency surgery. The beating was caught on videotape and broadcast widely on local television news, including the clear ramming of the butt end of a baton into Huerta's torso by one of the helmeted officers. Later, Huerta won a large judgment against the SFPD and the City of San Francisco, the proceeds of which were used for the benefit of farm workers.[6] The assault is credited with starting yet another movement to change SFPD crowd control policies and the manner in which officer discipline is handled.

Following a lengthy recovery she took a leave of absence from the union to focus on women’s rights. She traversed the country for two years on behalf of the Feminist Majority’s Feminization of Power: 50/50 by the year 2000 Campaign encouraging Latinas to run for office. The campaign resulted in a significant increase in the number of women representatives at the local, state and federal levels. She also served as National Chair of the 21st Century Party founded in 1992 on the principles that women make up 52% of the party’s candidates and that officers must reflect the ethnic diversity of the nation.

Huerta is president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which she founded in 2002.[7] The Dolores Huerta Foundation is a 501(c)(3) "community benefit organization that organizes at the grassroots level, engaging and developing natural leaders. DHF creates leadership opportunities for community organizing, leadership development, civic engagement, and policy advocacy in the following priority areas: health & environment, education & youth development, and economic development."[8] At 82, Huerta continues to work tirelessly developing leaders and advocating for the working poor, women and children.

Honors[edit]

Huerta was named one of the three most important women of the year by Ms. Magazine in 1997.[9] She was an inaugural recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights from President Bill Clinton in 1998. That same year, Ladies' Home Journal recognized her as one of the 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century, along with such women leaders as Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher, Rosa Parks, and Indira Gandhi.[10]

She was awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship in 2002.[11] On September 30, 2005, she became an honorary sister of Kappa Delta Chi sorority (Alpha Alpha chapter - Wichita State University).[12] She received an honorary degree from Princeton University in recognition of her numerous achievements May 2006. She was lauded in the ceremony: "Through her insatiable hunger of justice —La Causa— and her tireless advocacy, she has devoted her life to creative, compassionate, and committed citizenship."[citation needed] She was co-recipient (along with Virgilio Elizondo) of the 2007 Community of Christ International Peace Award .[13]

On 18 May 2007, she announced her endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president,[14] and at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Huerta formally placed Clinton's name into nomination.[15]

She was recognized by United Neighborhood Centers of America with its highest individual honor, the Jane Addams Distinguished Leadership Award at its National Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. in December 2008.[citation needed] She was awarded the UCLA Medal, UCLA's highest honor, during the UCLA College of Letters and Science commencement ceremony on 12 June 2009.[16] She is one of the subjects of the Sylvia Morales film A Crushing Love (2009), the sequel to Chicana (1979).[17][18]

In October 2010, she was awarded an honorary degree by Mills College, who lauded her as "a lifetime champion of social justice whose courageous leadership garnered unprecedented national support from farmworkers, women, and underserved communities in a landmark quest for human and civil rights".[19] The same month, she also was awarded an honorary doctorates [20] by University of the Pacific, which also unveiled an official portrait of her for the Architects of Peace Project by artist Michael Collopy.[21]

Huerta received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on 29 May 2012.[22] She is an Honorary Chair of Democratic Socialists of America[23] and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Equality California.[24]

Four elementary schools in California; one school in Fort Worth, Texas; and a high school in Pueblo, Colorado, are named after Huerta.[9] One of the student centers at Pitzer College, in Claremont, California, is named the Huerta Learning Circle Room in the labor leader's honor.[citation needed] She was a speaker at the first and tenth Cesar Chavez Convocation.[25] In 2013, Huerta received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[26]

Huerta was also initiated as an honorary sister of Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, Inc. by the Wichita State University chapter on September 30, 2005.

She is portrayed by actor/activist Rosario Dawson in the movie 'Cesar Chavez' that opened in March 2014.

Personal life[edit]

Huerta married Ralph Head in college. During their marriage they had two daughters, Celeste and Lori. After divorcing Head, Huerta married Ventura Huerta with whom she had five children. Their marriage ended over disagreements over many issues including her community involvements. Later Huerta had a long romantic relationship with Richard Chavez, the brother of César Chávez.[27] Huerta and Chávez never married, but the couple had four children during their relationship. Richard Chávez died on July 27, 2011.[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Biography: Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta". National Women's History Museum, Education & Resources. Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  2. ^ García, Mario T. (2008). García, ed. A Dolores Huerta Reader. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-8263-4513-4. Retrieved 24 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "Delta College Cultural Awareness Programs Presents: "A Morning with Dolores Huerta"". Delta College. September 22, 2010. Retrieved April 2, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Biography.com. "Dolores Huerta". Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "Dolores Huerta Biography". Huerta.hostcentric.com. 1930-04-10. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  6. ^ "La Voz de Aztlan - Volume I Issue 6". Aztlan.net. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  7. ^ "DHF History". Dolores Huerta Foundation. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "About the Dolores Huerta Foundation". Dolores Huerta Foundation. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "Dolores Huerta :: Biography". Dolores Huerta Foundation. Retrieved 2012-01-23. 
  10. ^ 100 most important women of the 20th century. (1st ed. ed.). Des Moines, Iowa: Ladies' Home Journal Books. 1998. ISBN 978-0-696-20823-2. 
  11. ^ Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, official web site.
  12. ^ "Kappa Delta Chi National - Honorary Members". Kappadeltachi.org. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  13. ^ Author unknown (2007). Two Recipients Share This Year's Award. Community of Christ International Peace Award, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-08-03 from http://www.cofchrist.org/peaceaward/default.asp.
  14. ^ Human Rights Leader Dolores Huerta Endorses Clinton, May 18, 2007, Clinton campaign news release.
  15. ^ "2008 Democratic National Convention: Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Dolores Huerta, Civil Rights Leader". Prnewswire.com. 2008-08-27. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  16. ^ Elizabeth Kivowitz Boatright-Simon, UCLA's main commencement ceremony, UCLA Newsroom, June 10, 2009
  17. ^ CHICANA. Retrieved from http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c269.shtml.
  18. ^ A CRUSHING LOVE. Retrieved from http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c771.shtml.
  19. ^ "Legendary Labor Leader Dolores Huerta to speak at Mills College Convocation". Mills College. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  20. ^ "Dolores Huerta Honorary Degree Conferral Open to the Public". 
  21. ^ "Architects of Peace". 
  22. ^ Cook, Rachel (26 April 2012). "Dolores Huerta will be given Medal of Freedom, White House announces". Bakersfield Californian. Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  23. ^ "Democratic Socialists of America :: Our Structure". Democratic Socialists of America. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  24. ^ "About EQCA :: Board of Directors". Equality California. Retrieved 2012-01-23. 
  25. ^ "10th Annual César Chávez Convocation with Dolores Huerta". University of California Santa Cruz College Ten. April 30, 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  26. ^ Moreno, Carolina (June 20, 2013). "Dolores Huerta Receives National Award". Huffington Post. 
  27. ^ a b Quinones, Sam (2011-07-28). "Richard Chavez dies at 81; brother of Cesar Chavez (He helped Cesar Chavez build the United Farm Workers into a political and agricultural force. He organized the California grape boycott in the late 1960s.)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-07-30. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Amsler, T.R. (2007 Summer). 'Si, Se Puede': Hayward teachers gain concessions and a valuable ally. Rethinking Schools, 21(4), 11.
  • Felner, J. (Jan/Feb 1998). Dolores Huerta. Ms, 8(4), 48-49.
  • Huerta, D. (Spring 2007). One more child left behind . Ms, 17(2), 79.
  • Perez, F (1996). Dolores Huerta. Austin, TX: Raintree.
  • Rose, M. (2004). Dolores Huerta: The United Farm Workers Union. In Arnesen, E (Ed.). Human tradition in American labor history. (pp. 211–229). Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc.
  • Rosenburg, R. (Editor & Director). (1996). Women of hope [Videocassette]. Princeton, NJ: Films for the Humanities.
  • Schiff, K.G. (2005). Lighting the way: Nine women who changed modern America. New York, NY: Hyperion.
  • Telles, R & Tejada-Flores, R. (Directors). (1997). Fight in the fields [videocassette]. San Francisco, CA: Paradigm Productions.
  • Vogel, N. (2005, Sept. 7). Legislature OKs gay marriage; Assembly action sends the bill to the governor, who has signaled that he will veto the measure. Los Angeles Times, p. A1.

External links[edit]