22 April 2010

A Tribute to Dr. Dorothy Irene Height

A few days ago, I wrote to you about the legacy of Wilma Mankiller. Today, we mourn the passing, and celebrate the extraordinary life, of Dr. Dorothy Height, an iconic leader of both the civil rights and women's movements. In fact, Dr. Height's life and her work in many venues began the bridge building between these two movements as fulcrums for human rights. For this, and her many other contributions, we at the Ms. Foundation for Women are deeply grateful to Dr. Height. Her accomplishments, over many decades, paved the way for our work today, solidly at the intersection of race, class and gender.

René Redwood, a dear friend of Dr. Height, and a member of our board of directors, says that Dr. Height always spoke of her quest to bridge the two movements as her "life work." Dr. Height's commitment is an inspiration, and a wonderful reminder to us all that our work for racial and gender justice is truly ongoing, and that we stand on the shoulders of many before us. We have won, and we will win, many victories, but we can never be complacent.

In the late 1930s, for example, when she worked with the Harlem Y.W.C.A., Dr. Height called massive attention to the exploitation of black women working as domestic day laborers. Her naming of this unspoken issue brought change at that time, and laid the groundwork for further advocacy. In our era, Domestic Workers United in New York, and other organizations around the country, continue this fight to win basic labor rights and protections for thousands of domestic workers, who now include women from many immigrant communities.

In 1997, in an interview with the Associated Press, Dr. Height said that she knew immediately, as she was sitting on the platform with Dr. Martin Luther King that the "I Have a Dream" speech would "echo for generations because it gripped everybody." Dr. Height will also echo for generations, having touched, and deeply influenced, countless women and men of all backgrounds and walks of life, particularly African American women. We honor her extraordinary tenacity and courage, and salute her unending work to create a democracy that truly delivers justice for all.

Sara K. Gould
President & CEO
Ms. Foundation for Women

Dorothy Height, Largely Unsung Giant of the Civil Rights Era, Dies at 98
New York Times

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