April 10, 1930: Dolores Huerta is born.

Dolores Huerta was born in Dawson, New Mexico, and was raised by her mother (along with her two brothers) in Stockton, California, a major city in the state’s agriculturally productive San Joaquin Valley. Although her mother eventually became a hotel owner and a successful businesswoman, Huerta’s community was supported by low-wage migrant farm workers (like the family of Cesar Chavez), and so Huerta herself, inspired by her upbringing and her experience working as a teacher among impoverished students, became a community organizer and set out to “correct economic injustice”. In the 1950s Huerta worked with the Stockton chapter of the Community Service Organization, a group that focused on promoting political participation and empowerment among American immigrant groups, especially Mexican-Americans, and which came to be known as “training ground for the first generation of Latino leaders”. Among these leaders was Huerta herself, and Cesar Chavez, whom she met while working with the CSO. 

In 1960, she founded the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA), and in 1962 Huerta and Chavez founded a union called the National Farm Workers Association that would later merge with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to become the United Farm Workers of America, . Its principal aim was (and is) to organize farmworkers and, through non-violent methods, to “provide farm workers and other working people with the inspiration and tools to share in society’s bounty”. In 1965, the AWOC and NFWA organized the Delano grape strike in protest of the poor pay (90 cents an hour, on average) and poor working conditions of table grape growers; this strike was not resolved until 1970, but the activists successfully brought national attention to the plight of oft-overlooked farmworkers. Huerta was a co-founder of the UFW and one of its major spokespeople and organizers, but she also provided within the union a feminist voice; previously she had referred to feminism as a “middle-class phenomenon”, but later referred to herself as a “born-again feminist” - in addition to organizing farmworkers in pursuit of better pay and working conditions, Huerta also worked to get more women involved in the movement. 

During her work as an activist, Huerta was arrested over twenty times. In 1988, she was beaten by the police in San Francisco during a peaceful protest against the policies of George H.W. Bush, and after this incident she began to focus on women’s rights advocacy. Since the 1990s, Huerta has received numerous honors and awards for her work, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award in 1998, honorary degrees from several institutions, and most recently the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian award.  

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