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Civil Rights Hero Dorothy Height Passes

April 20, 2010

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="353" caption="Dorothy Height"]Dorothy Height[/caption] Founding matriarch of the American civil rights movement, Dorothy Height, passed today at age 98. As women challenge the wage gap in today’s equal pay day protests, they will do so in the spirit of Dr. Height and remember her 50 years of dedication to achieving women's rights for full equal employment, pay and education as president of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) from 1957 to 1997. Height’s crusade for racial justice and gender equality began in 1933, when she became a leader of the United Christian Youth Movement of North America and worked to prevent lynching, desegregate the armed forces, reform the criminal justice system, and universal access to public areas. She quickly moved up to high-level positions in both the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) and NCNW; integrating her skills as a social worker and her personal commitment to rise above the limitations of race and sex.  She was also known for her internationalism and humanitarianism, and once taught at the Delhi School of Social Work in India, and led a study of the training of women's organizations in Liberia, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria under the Committee of Correspondence. An activist to the core, Height took every organization she led to new heights. When elected National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in 1947, she moved the sorority into a new era of activism on the national and international scene. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, Height founded Wednesdays In Mississippi to assist in the freedom schools and open communication between women of difference races. She then went on to fight for civil rights alongside pioneers such as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., encouraged President Dwight D. Eisenhower to desegregate schools, and worked with President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African-American women to positions in government. A tireless fighter for equal rights, Height never privileged one interest over another. She was on the platform with Dr. King when he delivered his "I have a dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, but she would say later that she was disappointed that no one advocating women's rights was given a chance to speak that day. Her dedication has earned her the title "godmother of the women's movement" and praise from leading figures such as President Obama, who names her as a hero because she "served as the only woman at the highest level of the civil rights movement -- witnessing every march and milestone along the way." Height passed at 3:41 a.m. this morning. No cause of death was given. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time, and we remember her influence and dedication as we continue working for the equality she cherished, and spent her life fighting for.
Tags: Feminism