Friday, April 30, 2010

Remembering a Woman Who Helped Unite the Civil Rights and Women's Rights Movements

On April 20, the United States lost one of its great champions of the civil rights and the feminist movement. Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912-April 20, 2010) passed away in Howard University Hospital of an undisclosed illness.

According to the NCNW, the following are only a few of Ms. Height's many achievements:

~She served on the staff of the National Board of the YWCA of the USA and held several leadership positions in Public Affairs and Leadership Training and as Director of the National YWCA School for Professional Workers. In 1965, she was inaugurated and became Director of the Center for Racial Justice, a position she held until her retirement.

~She made a study of the training of women's organizations in five African countries: Liberia, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria under the Committee of Correspondence.

~Height was elected National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in 1947 - and served until l956. She carried the Sorority to a new level of organizational development, initiation eligibility and social action throughout her term.

~In l957, Height was elected fourth National President of NCNW and served until l998 when she became Chair and President Emerita.

~In 1960, Height was the woman team member leader in the United Civil Rights Leadership along with Martin Luther King, Whitney H. Young, A. Philip Randolph, James Farmer, Roy Wilkins and John Lewis.

As President Obama said during his speech, "We remember her for all she did over a lifetime, behind the make us see the drive for civil rights and women's rights not as a separate struggle, but as part of a larger movement to secure the rights of all humanity, regardless of gender, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity.

"It's an unambiguous record of righteous work, worthy of remembrance, worthy of recognition. And yet, one of the ironies is, is that year after year, decade in, decade out, Dr. Height went about her work quietly, without fanfare, without self-promotion. She never cared about who got the credit. She didn't need to see her picture in the papers. She understood that the movement gathered strength from the bottom up, those unheralded men and women who don't always make it into the history books but who steadily insisted on their dignity, on their manhood and womanhood."

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, was extremely proud to be one of the pallbearers at the ceremony. She said, "I had the privilege of working with Dorothy Height for over 3 decades. She was always a strong, clear, unique voice for women's equality. She quickly responded to every challenge, encouraging us that history will be on our side if we stay the course for equality."

Kim Gandy, former President of NOW and Vice President and General Council of the Feminist Majority Foundation, stated in FMF's press release, "From her days as a young woman advising Eleanor Roosevelt to her recent sponsorship of the Feminist Majority's leadership conference, Dr. Height always made sure that women's rights were recognized as civil rights. In her own words, she strived for 'a world with not only law and order, but also equality and justice.'"

Video: Dorothy Height is Honored by President Barack Obama and Maya Angelou

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