Dolores Huerta, the labor organizer and civil rights activist, will speak Thursday, 6:30 p.m. at The Briscoe Western Art Museum’s Jack Guenther Pavilion.
Admission to this lecture or any others in the museum’s Voices of the West: Distinguished Lecture Series is open to the public. The cost is $10 for the general public. Admission is free tomuseum members and UTSA affiliates.
Huerta, now a vibrant 84 years old, has had a long and distinguished career as a champion for social justice. In 1960, she co-founded what was to become the National Farm Workers Association along with César Chávez. She was a 2011 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Huerta was born in Dawson, New Mexico to impoverished parents, and grew up in Stockton, California. Stockton is located in the San Joaquín Valley, an area world-famous for its agriculture and highly dependent on migrant labor. Huerta briefly taught in an elementary school, but became concerned that her students, many of them the children of farmworkers, didn’t have enough food to eat or clothes to wear. So she became an activist instead, and served as the head of Stockton’s chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO), a nonprofit with roots in the Progressive Era that fought for farmworker rights and against discrimination. Through the CSO, she met César Chávez, its executive director.
When Chávez left to form his own farmworkers union, Huerta followed. The National Farm Workers Association, later renamed the United Farmworkers Association, became the leading voice for farmworker rights in the 1960s and ‘70s. (Readers might recall the grape and lettuce boycotts of the period, which became legendary labor actions.) Huerta worked side-by-side with Chávez for decades, though his face and name are better-known. Huerta, less of a public figure, is widely-respected in social justice circles.
Through her friendship with Gloria Steinem and other feminist leaders of the period she became associated with women’s rights as well. During this time she began to challenge gender discrimination within the farmworkers rights movement, according to her foundationwebsite. Remarkably, she somehow managed to bear 11 children while working in the labor movement.
Huerta has continued her activism into her 80s, despite being the victim of a police brutality while demonstrating in San Francisco in the 1980s. She received several broken ribs and a lacerated spleen, and later won a judgment against the City of San Francisco.
In 2013, she was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, and then the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. She also was chosen as one of the “100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century,” by the popular, though now-defunct, Ladies Home Journal magazine.
Huerta continues to advocate for the working poor, women and children. As founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she continues to share her passion for voting rights, Latina representation in politics and other social justice causes, including reproductive freedom and LBGT civil rights.
“Attendees will have a unique opportunity to hear from a true leader and activist for the Latino community,” said Tom Livesay, executive director of the Briscoe Western Art Museum.
Contact the Briscoe Museum for tickets to this event.
*Featured/top image: From the PBS “Makers” documentary series on Dolores Huerta.