(Apr. 10, 1930 – Present)
Reading Grade Level:
Dolores Huerta is an activist. An activist is someone who fights for equal human rights for everybody no matter their skin color, gender, or race. She was born on April 10, 1930, in New Mexico to Mexican parents. Six years later, Dolores’ mom moved the family out to California. Dolores really liked learning and loved school. Her mom made sure she stayed involved. Dolores was part of the Girl Scouts, a dancer, and she also learned to play instruments.
When it was time to go to college, Dolores studied to become a teacher so she could help kids. But teaching wasn’t what she thought it was going to be. She saw that her students could not focus. Their parents didn’t have money to give them enough food. The students were always hungry. It’s hard to learn when your tummy is grumbling from being so hungry and you feel cold because your family cannot afford to buy you a jacket.
Dolores quit teaching after a few months because she wanted to make a different kind of change. Dolores began to meet with people in her city about how they could make things better for those living there. She learned that many of her student’s parents worked as farmworkers in the fields of California picking grapes. They worked from sunrise to sunset, but they were making very little money. Working in the fields was not safe because of the very hot weather and because of the dangerous chemicals they put on the grapes. Dolores knew that this was not fair, and wanted to make it better.
At the city meetings, Dolores met Cesar Chavez. Cesar was a farmworker. Dolores and Cesar would become lifelong friends and worked together to make life better for farmworkers. Together they organized a large five-year grape strike. A strike is when people refuse a product or service. Dolores and Cesar convinced the farmers to quit their jobs. Dolores also went to local grocery stores and shared how the grape farmers were not getting paid enough and how unsafe their jobs were. People listened and stopped buying grapes. Without workers or people buying their grapes, the companies in charge started losing a lot of money. They had no choice but to listen to the workers. The companies started to pay their workers enough to feed their families and made their jobs safer. Dolores and Cesar helped pass a law to make sure farmworkers all over the country get treated fairly.
Since then, Dolores has been fighting for the rights of all people. In 2011, Dolores received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama. It is one of the highest awards anyone can receive. Dolores will be 87 years old in a few weeks, and she continues to help people all over the country.
Can you think of a time when you saw someone being treated unfairly? What can you do to help?