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Dolores Huerta is an advocate for women’s rights and immigrants, a civil rights activist, and a labor leader from the United States. She co-founded the National Farmworkers Association, now United Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights.

Young Life and Education

Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta was born on April 10, 1930, in Dawson, New Mexico. She was the second child of parents’ Juan Fernández, who worked as a miner, union activist, farm/field worker, and a state assemblyman, and Alicia Chávez. They divorced when Huerta was age 3, and her mother raised her and her two brothers in Stockton, California as a part of the California farm worker community. Alicia Chávez actively worked in the community for the church and civic organizations. She owned a restaurant and a hotel with 70 rooms which she rented to the poor farm workers and their families for cheap.

Dolores Huerta learned how to be caring and compassionate to others by watching her mother’s many charitable efforts within their community.


Dolores Huerta enrolled in Stockton High School, where she quickly involved herself in community activism. She joined many school clubs, including the Girl Scouts. She experienced racism from teachers and neighbors growing up, due to her Hispanic heritage, including one time when a teacher gave her a bad grade because the teacher did not believe Huerta’s writing skills. She graduated high school and enrolled in the University of the Pacific’s Stockton College, now San Joaquin Delta Community College, to earned a degree in associate teaching. She taught at a grammar school briefly before deciding to pursue a career combatting social and economic injustices.[2]

Biography of Dolores Huerta and Her Advocacy

Dolores Huerta’s career in activism and advocacy began in 1955 when she co-founded the Community Service Organization (CSO), Stockton chapter with Frank Ross. This organization focused on registering voters and fights for economic improvements in the Hispanic community. She founded the Agricultural Workers Association around the same time, which also worked to increase voter registration and promote neighborhood improvements.[3]

Dolores Huerta never allows hate or fear to hold her back from working towards a better life for farm workers, women, and Hispanic-Americans on the whole.

In 1955, Ross introduced Huerta to the executive director of CSO, César E. Chávez. Both wanted to focus on the organization of farm workers to create change. In 1962, Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez quit the CSO and founded the National Farm Workers Association (UFW). They employed her skills as an organizer and lobbyist to secure Aid for Dependent Families (AFDC) in 1963, along with farm workers’ disability insurance in California. Huerta became spokesperson for the National Farm Workers Association and even Robert F. Kennedy recognized her assistance in his securing the California Democratic Presidential Primary in 1968, just moments before his assassination.[4]

In 1965, Dolores Huerta led the national boycott supported by the UFW during the Delano grape strike. She brought the struggles of 5,000 farm workers right to the consumers and began advocating for consumer right’s as well. In 1970, she led the negotiations resulting in the entire grape industry confirming a collective bargaining agreement for three years.

Huerta directed another grape boycott by consumers in 1973 and gave way to the revolutionary California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. The act granted California farm workers the right to organize together and bargain for better working conditions and wages. This was the first law of that kind in the United States and resulted in farm workers staging boycotts and participating in grassroots campaigning in order to have their concerns heard and respected. [5]

During a peaceful protest against presidential candidate George H.W. Bush in September 1988, Dolores Huerta was beaten by the San Francisco police and their batons. They broke several ribs and her spleen required emergency surgery after suffering severe trauma. Someone videotaped the attack on Huerta and local news stations broadcast the video of her unnecessary attack. She won a significant judgment against the San Francisco Police Dept. and used the proceeds on projects to benefit her organizations’ farm workers.[6]

Huerta rested after the assault by taking a leave of absence from her union work to support women’s rights. She traveled the U.S. for almost two years for the Feminist Majority’s campaign, the Feminization of Power: 50/50 by the Year 2000, seeking to encourage Hispanic women to run for political positions. The campaign succeeded in increasing women at all levels of government. She then served the political 21st Century Party as their National Chair, after it started in 1992, which focused on women candidates and reflecting the nation’s ethnic diversity.[7]

Marriage and Family

Dolores Huerta has been married several times. Her first husband, Ralph Head, she met while attending the University of the Pacific’s Delta College. They bore two daughters before divorcing shortly afterward. She then married Ventura Huerta and the produced five children before divorcing.[8] Huerta then began a long romance with Richard Chavez, the brother of César Chavez, but they never married. The two produced four children before Richard’s death on July 27, 2011.[9]

Awards, Honors, and Current Work

Dolores Huerta has received many awards and honors during her long activist career. In 1998, she received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award. In 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[10]

Huerta founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation in 2002, continues to work with many advocacy groups and progressive organizations, including the Consumer Federation of California, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and People for the American Way.[11] She also serves as an Honorary Chair for the Democractic Socialist of America and serves on the Board of Directors for the nonprofit, Equality California.[12][13]

There are six schools across the United States named in honor of Dolores Huerta, including four in California, one in Texas, and one in Colorado. In March 2013, the California Hall of Fame inducted her. Other awards and honors include the Mexican government’s Ohtli Award, the Kern County Woman of the Year Award, and nine honorary doctorates from U.S. universities.[14]



Dolores Huerta Foundation. (2013, November 16). Dolores Huerta. Dolores Huerta Foundation.[5]

Michals, Ph.D., D. (2010, February 5). Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta (1930- ). National Women’s History Museum.[6]


  1. Loya, G. I. (1998). Considering the Sources/Fuentes for a Hispanic Feminist Theology. Theology Today, 54(4), 491–498. doi:10.1177/004057369805400406
  2. Michals, Ph.D., 2010
  3. Michals, Ph.D., 2010
  4. Dolores Huerta Foundation, 2013
  5. Michals, Ph.D., 2010
  6. Los Angeles Times (1991, January 25). $825, 000 Proposed for Union Activist Injured by Police. Los Angeles Times.[1]
  7. Dolores Huerta Foundation, 2013
  8. Michals, Ph.D., 2010
  9. Quinones, S. (2011, July 28). Richard Chavez Dies at 81; Brother of Cesar Chavez. Los Angeles Times.[2]
  10. Michals, Ph.D., 2010
  11. Dolores Huerta Foundation, 2013
  12. DSA. (2016). Our Structure. Democratic Socialists of America.[3]
  13. Equality California. (2016). Our Boards. Equality California.[4]
  14. Dolores Huerta Foundation, 2013

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