Story Agriculture

Celebrating Her-Story

Michelle McCarthy

The CSU pays homage to Dolores Huerta, guardian of the farmworkers’ rights movement.  

Dolores Huerta visited CSU East Bay in 2016 to ​speak and reflect on her ​life and work in the labor movement.​

 

​​​​​As Californians pause today to acknowledge the revolutionary efforts of labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, it's also worth remembering his steadfast partner in the movement, Dolores Huerta—​a woman Chavez called "totally fearless, both mentally and physically." Together, they dedicated their lives to La Causa (the cause) of farmworkers, shedding light on the dire working conditions they endured and demanding change.

Huerta cofounded the National Farm Workers Association, later known as United Farm Workers (UFW). She was a tireless advocate for the underdog, lending a voice to the voiceless. Often on the frontline of protests across the state, megaphone in hand, Huerta is credited with coining the battle cry Si se puede! (Yes, you can!) years before President Barack Obama adopted it as his campaign slogan. Huerta organized boycotts, led strikes and placed persistent pressure on the agricultural industry in California. The result was the first of its kind—a sea change in public policy that guaranteed farmworkers basic rights and union contracts. Her impact would eventually spread across the nation.

The California State University has maintained a relationship with this fearless leader for decades. In 2018, California State University, Bakersfield​ President Horace Mitchel​l (now retired) presented the campus's President's Medal to Huerta, describing her as “a living legend … an icon whose name is synonymous with civil rights." 

California State University, Northridge, in particular, has benefited from Huerta's 30-year commitment to public education. CSUN students have worked as interns at the UFW and with “la escuelita," the small school in Delano, California, that educated the children of farmworkers in the region.​ CSUN proudly conferred upon Huerta the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 2002 for her lifetime of service to the state of California and to the students of the CSU. 

Huerta's recognitions also include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, award by President Barack Obama in 2012. Just last year, on the occasion of her 90th birthday, the Board of Trustees of the California State University resolved that each of the 23 CSU campuses would pay tribute to Huerta's legacy for generations to come by planting a tree— rooted in the same earth tended by many thousands of California farmworkers, including Dolores Huerta herself—or by taking other appropriate commemorative action to honor her lifelong work in service to California and Californians.

​Read more about Dolores Huerta in our celebration of Women's History Month.​​​