American labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, will speak at St. Olaf College Wednesday, October 26.
Her lecture, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Pause in Buntrock Commons, will be streamed and archived online. It is sponsored by the college’s Political Awareness Committee, a branch of the St. Olaf Student Government Association responsible for facilitating, encouraging, and growing campus political dialogue.
Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Cesar Chavez in 1962. The association later merged with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to become the United Farm Workers (UFW), a major labor union for farmworkers in the United States. In 2002 she founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF), a community benefit organization that organizes and creates grassroots-level activities for community organizing, leadership development, civic engagement, and policy advocacy in areas such as health, education, and economic development.
As an activist, Huerta first demonstrated her lobbying and negotiating skills by helping secure the Aid For Dependent Families and disability insurance for California farm workers in 1963. Some of the other laws that she supported and lobbied for included the 1960 bill that requires voting ballots, driver’s license tests, and other government documents to be printed in English and Spanish, as well as the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act that established the right for farmworkers to conduct collective bargaining with their employers.
As president and director of the DHF, Huerta travels across the country, engaging in campaigns and influencing legislation that supports equality and defends civil rights. She often speaks to students and organizations about issues of social justice and public policy.
Huerta has been awarded numerous honors for her work. She received the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom Award and was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. She was an inaugural recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights from President Bill Clinton in 1998. That same year, Ladies’ Home Journal recognized her as one of the 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century, along with such women leaders as Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher, Rosa Parks, and Indira Gandhi.
In 2012 President Barack Obama bestowed Huerta the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.
“The great social justice changes in our country have happened when people came together, organized, and took direct action,” Huerta said in accepting that award. “It is this right that sustains and nurtures our democracy today.”