Women Who Inspire Us: Dorothy Height

Portrait of Dorothy Height

"I want to be remembered as someone who used herself and anything she could touch to work for justice and freedom… I want to be remembered as one who tried," Dorothy Height once said.  

This month we remember her and are inspired by her commitment to civil rights and women's rights. That commitment was lifelong. Already in high school, Height was politically active and an excellent speaker. She won a national oratory competition, which earned her a college scholarship. She was admitted to Barnard College, but when she arrived there in the fall of 1929 she was denied entrance because she was black. 

Undeterred, Height went instead to New York University and earned a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree in educational psychology. She joined the National Council of Negro Women at age 25 as a civil rights activist, and later became the president of the group –a position she held for 40 years. 

During her time as an activist, Height pushed President Eisenhower to desegregate schools and President Johnson to appoint black women to positions in government. She served on Presidential committees on issues related to African American rights, the status of women, reproductive freedom, and employment opportunities for disabled people. 

Height won numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame.