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Friday, April 23, 2010

Dorothy Height

This special lady died this week at the age of 98.  Her name may not roll off the tongue like Martin Luther King, Jr., Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D., or Susan B. Anthony but this diminutive woman did so much for women (and blacks and all of humanity) that women like me who have become professionals (and particularly in male dominated fields) have much to thank her for.
Dr. Height was born in 1912 and won a scholarship to Barnard College based on her oratorical skills (though she attended NYU).  After achieving her bachelor's and master degrees and advanced study in Social Work, she began her lifelong crusade for equality and equal opportunity.  She also worked tirelessly for voter registration and education.  Presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan to Bush to Obama trusted her as advisor and honored her accomplishments.  May said she had the most remarkable ability to reach across barriers-between women and men, white and those of color, rich and poor. For more details and moving photographs, see NPR's indepth coverage, the National Council of Negro Women (she was Chair and President Emerita), or read her amazing memoir Open Wide the Freedom Gates.

In "Tell Me More", Jennifer Longmire-Wright captures much of Dorothy's essence:
Dr. Height was a bridge-builder who understood that we all had something to gain from coming together.  She...said that there is strength in numbers.  It's okay to ask for help.

One of her stands particularly struck home with me so I will close this tribute with:
The younger generations, she said, are the beneficiaries of what a lot of people worked and gave their lives for. It is important for the young to get organized in how they will serve others, because when people work for something bigger than themselves, there's no way they can help but grow.

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