Dolores Huerta to Receive Radcliffe Medal

Dolores Huerta. Photo courtesy of the Dolores Huerta FoundationDolores Huerta. Photo courtesy of the Dolores Huerta Foundation
Harvard Magazine
February 6, 2019

Dolores Huerta, the labor and civil-rights activist who co-founded the National Farmworkers Association (now the United Farm Workers), will receive the Radcliffe Medal and speak to guests at Radcliffe Day on May 31, during Commencement week.

Huerta is best known for her work organizing immigrant farm workers; alongside Cesar Chavez, she was one of the leaders of the Delano grape strike, a five-year labor strike and consumer boycott beginning in 1965 that resulted in a union contract and better pay and working conditions for grape pickers in California. Huerta’s work helped lead to the passage of the 1975 Agricultural Labor Relations Act, recognizing the right of California farm workers to collective bargaining. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. 

“The fact that some individuals won’t immediately recognize Dolores Huerta’s name and know why we’re honoring her illustrates the all-too-common erasure of women from our histories. As a historian, I am keenly aware that Huerta and other women from traditionally marginalized groups are especially likely to be omitted from our historical narratives,” said Radcliffe Institute dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin. “Every American should know her name and her decades-long work to secure the rights of farmworkers, women, and other disadvantaged people.”

The day will open with a morning multidisciplinary panel on the problems facing the U.S. food system, moderated by journalist Soledad O’Brien ’88 and featuring Sara Bleich, Ph.D. ’07, RI ’19, professor of public health policy; Jennifer Gordon ’87, J.D. ’92, professor of law at Fordham; writer and activist Frances Lappé; economics professor Daniel Sumner; and chef and food activist Alice Waters. Then, Huerta will be joined in conversation by O’Brien, and Brown-Nagin will formally present the Radcliffe Medal.

The Radcliffe Institute awards the Radcliffe Medal annually to “an individual who embodies its commitment to excellence, inclusion, and social impact.” Previous honorees include Hillary Clinton last year, PBS co-anchors Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, LL.D. ’11, and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem.

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