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Dorothy Height: “A Matriarch Moves On” (and Hillary in a Hat)

“Dorothy Height: A matriarch moves on”

–Florida Times-Union headline

Dr. Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010)

Dorothy Height, In Her Own Words:

In 1929, Height was accepted to Barnard College but denied admission due to an unwritten racial quota of only two black students per a year. From Height’s memoir:

But I couldn’t believe my ears. I was devastated. Since childhood, school had been my love, my life.


I couldn’t bear to call home and report that I wasn’t going to college after all–that they didn’t want me. Crushed and confued, I went to the Harlem apartment of my sister, Jessie Randolph. We called William, who said, in a positive tone, “There are other schools,” and urged me to call New York University.


Dean Schaeffer studied the letter. I’ll never forget her eyes as she looked up. She said, “A girl who makes these kinds of grades doesn’t need an application to enroll at NYU.” A ray of hope crept into my heart. She gave me a form. When I filled it out, I was matriculated at NYU. From that day forward I have loved every brick of that university.

The National Council of Negro Women honors Dr. Height:

A photograph of civil rights heroine Dorothy Height in her youth is seen at right on the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women in Washington, Wednesday, April 28, 2010, as her casket is moved to nearby Howard University. Height died April 20 at the age of 98. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

LA Times:

As president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1957 to 1998, she led the group to expand its mission. Her initiatives included training thousands of women — housewives, teachers, office workers, students — to work as community advocates. Back in their own communities, they pushed for better housing, schools and stores. It was a way to help women escape what Height called the “triple bind of racism, sexism and poverty.”

“The triple bind of racism, sexism and poverty” …. Dr. Height, thank you for getting the struggle, on its multiple levels, and for sharing your voice with us.

From Marian Wright Edelman:

Dr. Dorothy Height was a lantern and role model for millions of women and a long-haul social change agent, blessed with uncommon commitment and talent. Her fingerprints are quietly embedded in many of the transforming events of the last seven decades as African Americans, women, and children pushed open and walked through previously closed doors of opportunity.
My organization, Children’s Defense Fund, was blessed to have her serve on our board for over 30 years. When she passed away on April 20 at 98, we all lost a treasure, a wise counselor, and a rock we could always lean against for support in tough times.

“A lantern and role model for millions of women and a long-haul social change agent”… I love that description. Dorothy Height shined on us and blazed trails which generations after hers have been able to take for granted.

Another excerpt (bold and underline emphases are mine):

During the civil rights movement, while so many women were playing vital roles that weren’t featured in the spotlight, Height was always up front with a seat at the table. She was often the only woman in the room with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the rest of the “Big Six” group of male leaders as they planned many key strategies, and she was sitting on the stage–she should have been a speaker–at the historic March on Washington. She led the NCNW membership as active participants in the movement and reminded us that women were its backbone–unseen but strong.

One more:

Through it all, Height’s intellect and strength remained as sharp as her signature sense of style. A musical based on her life was named “If This Hat Could Talk,” and anyone who knew Height and her trademark gorgeous hats understands just how that title was chosen. When Height was awarded her Congressional Gold Medal, then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton began her tribute by saying she had known Height for more than 30 years, since they first began working together on the Children’s Defense Fund’s board–and “just as in those long ago days, today once again, Dr. Height is the best-dressed woman in the entire room.”

Looking at the coverage of the events honoring Height, with pictures of her in her signature hat on display, she still appears to be the best-dressed woman in the room.

Here’s another well-dressed woman… H/T to Still4hill for this photo from Wednesday’s Dorothy Height Memorial:

Former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attend a "Community Celebration of Life" memorial for the late civil rights matriarch Dorothy Height at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, Wednesday, April 28, 2010. Her funeral will be held Thursday at Washington National Cathedral. Height died April 20 at the age of 98. (AP Photo/J. Scott)


One Response

  1. Beautiful tribute!

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