March 27th: Dolores Huerta

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Dolores Huerta is a civil rights activist who was raised by her mother in a farm town in California.  Huerta’s mother owned a hotel which she would let farm workers and their families stay in for very low prices, sometimes even for free.  Her mother, who Huerta describes as intelligent and gentle, was a large source of inspiration for Huerta’s activism later in her life.  Another reason she was driven to activism was because of her experience in the education system.  For a short time she worked as an elementary school teacher, but was saddened by the horrible conditions many of her students lived in, students who were the children of farm workers.  So, in 1955, Huerta helped start a local chapter of the Community Service Organization to, among other things, improve the economic conditions of farm workers.  Much of Huerta’s activism focused on farmer’s rights.  She started the Agricultural Workers Association in 1960, and co-founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962.  Some of her more specific victories include lowering the amount of pesticides used on grape farms, which were harmful to the people, and getting farm workers health insurance.  But Huerta’s activism wasn’t just limited to farm workers.  She also lobbied to make voting ballots and driver’s tests available in spanish, making both more accessible to the hispanic community.  In 1993, Huerta was inducted to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 2002 she received the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship.  The prize money, $100,000, was used to start the Dolores Huerta Foundation which focuses on social justice issues such as economic development and education.  Huerta is now 86 years old (87 in April), and is still an active activist.  She was recently named honorary co-chair of the women’s march that took place on January 21st.

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