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Dorothy Height

In preparation for this week’s Clear Views post on “Status Quo Challengers” I did what most people who are in search of an idea do: I turned to Google. I didn’t have to search too far, because the image of Dorothy Irene Height popped up as the day’s “Google Doodle.” I learned that it was commemorating the 102nd birthday of this trailblazer for Civil Rights.

Ms. Height, who had passed away in 2010 at the age of 98, spent 80 years of her life fighting for equality. In fact, President Obama called her “The Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement.”

She did a lot in the name of equality – including voter rights, employment opportunities, desegration, and literacy – despite some early challenges of her own. Or, maybe, it was because of them.

In 1929, she was awarded a college scholarship to Barnard College, but was denied entrance because of the school’s unwritten policy to admit only two black students a year. Ms. Height went on to get her undergraduate and Master’s degrees at New York University. After that, she spent her life championing the rights of women and African Americans in vast and varied ways. Most notably, she served as the president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years. She played a highly visible roll in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and was seen standing alongside Martin Luther King during his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Ms. Height wrote a weekly column entitled “A Woman’s Word” and her “Wednesdays in Mississppi” program is credited with creating a dialogue of understanding among black and white women from the North and South. In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2004, President George W. Bush gave her the Congressional Gold Medal.

In her memoir, “Open Wide the Freedom Gates,” Ms. Height wrote, “I am the product of many whose lives have touched mine, from the famous, distinguished, and powerful to the little known and the poor.”

Since March is Women’s History Month, I cannot imagine a more fitting person to feature as true Status Quo Challenger. Thank you to Dorothy Irene Height for all you did, and all that you have inspired others to do!