All of us at NOW were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Aileen Hernandez earlier this month. She was one of the founding officers of the National Organization for Women in 1966, and served as NOW’s national president from 1970-1971.
Hernandez also helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus, NOW’s Minority Women’s Task Force, and Sapphire Publishing Company with nine other African American women. It was under her leadership that NOW organized the Women’s Strike for Equality in 1970. In 2005, she was part of a group of 1,000 women from 150 nations who were collectively nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in social justice and civil rights.
During her term as NOW President, Aileen Hernandez focused on the issues facing women of color, and worked diligently to make NOW more inclusive. She said, “if you can’t recognize the differences in women that need to be addressed, as well as the things that are similar, that’s not going to be a good way for the movement to go.” NOW’s commitment to intersectional feminism is a direct legacy of Aileen Hernandez’s unshakable belief in diversity and racial justice.
Aileen Hernandez, who cited Eleanor Roosevelt as one of her personal heroes, liked to say “all issues are women’s issues.” She said that she was always told when she was growing up that she had choices, even when they were hard to see, and that it was what she did that would make a difference in her life. She not only made the difference in her own life — she made a difference in the lives of girls and women everywhere.