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Dolores Huerta: 1930—: Labor Union Leader

Initial Career As Teacher

Dolores (Fernández) Huerta was born on April 10, 1930, in Dawson, New Mexico, to Juan Fernández and Alicia Chaves Fernández. The Fernández family already had one son, and another son was born after Dolores's arrival. In the mid-1930s Juan and Alicia Fernández divorced, and Alicia Fernández moved with her three children to Stockton, in northern California's San Joaquin Valley. Juan Fernández, who had earned a living as a miner in New Mexico, eventually earned a college degree and was elected to the New Mexico state legislature in 1938.

Life in Stockton for the Fernández family was not easy at first; however, with the support of her extended family, within a few years Alicia Fernández earned enough money as a cannery worker and waitress to purchase a small hotel and restaurant. After her mother remarried, Dolores Fernández had two additional siblings, and all of them helped out at the hotel. The family made the hotel a success, and after Dolores finished high school, she planned on continuing her education by attending college. It took her a few years to realize this ambition, but she completed her associate's degree with a certificate in teaching at the Delta Community College division of the University of the Pacific in the early 1950s.

She also married and began a family; her first marriage produced seven children but ended in divorce. Although she subsequently married Richard Chavez, younger brother of Cesar Chavez, the renowned American labor leader, she retained her married surname, Huerta. With Chavez, Huerta had four more children, for a total of eleven children.

At a Glance . . .

Born Dolores Fernández on April 10, 1930 in Dawson, New Mexico to Juan Fernández and Alicia Chaves Fernández; divorced from first spouse; second marriage to Richard Chavez; eleven children. Education: Completed associate's degree in teaching at the University of the Pacific in the early 1950s. Religion: Roman Catholic.

Career: Stockton Public Schools, teacher, early 1950s; Community Service Organization, Stockton, CA, founder and staff member, 1955-60; Agricultural Workers Association, Delano, CA, founder and staff member, 1960-62; National Farm Workers Association, founder and staff member, 1962-66; United Farm Workers Union, vice-president, 1966-99, vice-president emeritus, 1999–.

Awards: Outstanding Labor Leader Award, California State Senate, 1984; Honorary doctorate, New College of San Francisco, 1990; Honorary Doctorate, San Francisco State University, 1993; National Women's Hall of Fame Inductee, 1993; American Civil Liberties Union Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award, 1993; Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award, 1993; Ellis Island Medal of Freedom Award, 1993; Honorary doctorate, State University of New York at New Paltz, 1999; Eleanor Roosevelt Award, 1999.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: James Heneghan (1930-) Biography - Personal to Rick Jacobson Biography - PersonalDolores Huerta: 1930—: Labor Union Leader Biography - Initial Career As Teacher, Founded Community Service Organization, United Farm Workers Union Founder, Political And Social Activism