All of us at the National Organization for Women are saddened by the passing of our friend, colleague, educator, activist, and philanthropist, Dr. Dorothy Irene Height. Dr. Height lived a full life, accomplished so much for the greater good, and left a legacy of empowerment and inspiration for girls and women of all ages and all races.
Dr. Height was the chair and president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), serving as its fourth president from 1957-1998. For nearly half a century, she led the struggle for equality and human rights for all people. Her life exemplified her passionate commitment for a just society and her vision of a better world.
Dr. Height’s career as a civil rights advocate began in the early 1930s, as she worked to prevent lynching, desegregate the armed forces, reform the criminal justice system, and establish free access to public accommodations. She met with Eleanor Roosevelt, worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was internationally known for her humanitarianism, lecturing and studying around the world.
On her 92nd birthday, Dr. Height was presented the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civil and most distinguished award presented by the U.S. Congress. And in 2008, the National Organization for Women and NOW Foundation honored Dr. Height’s life and accomplishments with a NOW Intrepid Award, given to “resolutely courageous, fearless and bold” women.
Dr. Height never stopped working for women and girls. Recently she served as honorary co-chair of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights campaign to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the international treaty on basic human rights for women. Adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1979, CEDAW has been ratified by 185 countries to date. The United States is one of a small handful of countries around the world not to have ratified CEDAW, and Dr. Height was working to change that sorry fact right up to the end of her life.
There could be no more fitting way to honor Dr. Height’s legacy of dedication to equality for all women and girls than for NOW to call on the U.S. Senate to act immediately to ratify CEDAW.
From its founding in 1966 right up to today, Dr. Height has been a great inspiration to NOW, and we will forever be grateful for her support and friendship. We will miss her dearly, but we will see her every day, at every march, at every protest, and at every conference, because her spirit lives inside all of us.