Biography of Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers

Dolores Huerta, 1975
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Dolores Huerta (born April 10, 1930) is a co-founder and was a key leader of the United Farm Workers and headed up its famous grape boycott effort. In addition, she is a noted labor leader, advocate for women's rights, and social rights activist.

Fast Facts: Dolores Huerta

  • Known For: Co-founder and key leader of the United Farm Workers, social activist, and feminist leader, who also organized the UFW's grape boycott effort
  • Also Known As: Dolores Fernández Huerta
  • Born: April 10, 1930, in Dawson, New Mexico
  • Parents: Alicia Chavez and Juan Fernandez
  • Education: San Joaquin Delta College, University of the Pacific
  • Awards and Honors: Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights (1998), Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship (2002), Presidential Medal of Freedom (2012), Community of Christ International Peace Award (2007), Glamour Lifetime Achievement Award (2020)
  • Spouses: Ralph Head, Ventura Huerta
  • Children: Camila Chavez, Lori Head, Alicia Huerta, Emilio Huerta, Celeste Head, Fidel Huerta, Juan Chavez-Thomas, Maria Elena Chavez, Vincent Huerta, Ricky Chavez, Angela Cabrera
  • Notable Quote: "Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world."

Early Life

Dolores Huerta was born on April 10, 1930, in Dawson, New Mexico, to Juan and Alicia Chavez Fernandez. Dolores's parents divorced when she was very young, and she was raised by her mother in Stockton, California, with the help of her grandfather, Herculano Chavez.

Her mother worked two jobs when Dolores was young. During World War II, Alicia Fernandez Richards, who had remarried, ran a restaurant and then a hotel, where Dolores helped out as she grew older. Alicia divorced her second husband, who had not related well to Dolores, and married Juan Silva. Huerta has credited her maternal grandfather and her mother as the primary influences on her life.

Dolores also was inspired by her father, whom she saw infrequently until she was an adult, and by his struggles to make a living as a migrant laborer and coal miner. His union activity helped inspire her own activist work with a Lanitinx self-help association.

She married Ralph Head in college and divorced him after having two daughters with him. Later she married Ventura Huerta, with whom she had five children. But they disagreed over many issues including her community involvements, and first separated and then divorced. Her mother helped her support her continuing work as an activist after the divorce.

Early Activism

Huerta became involved in a community group supporting farmworkers which merged with the AFL-CIO's Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. Huerta also served as secretary-treasurer of the AWOC. It was during this time that she met Cesar Chavez, and after they'd worked together for some time, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with him. The organization eventually became the United Farm Workers.

United Farm Workers and Activism

Huerta served a key role in the early years of farmworker organizing, though she has only recently been given full credit for this. Among other contributions was her work as the coordinator for East Coast efforts in the table grape boycott, 1968–69, which helped to win recognition for the farm workers' union. It was during this time that she also became connected with the growing feminist movement including connecting with Gloria Steinem, who helped influence her to integrate feminism into her human rights analysis.

In the 1970s Huerta continued her work directing the grape boycott, and expanding it to a lettuce boycott and a boycott of Gallo wine. In 1975, the national pressure brought results in California, with the passage of legislation recognizing the right of collective bargaining for farmworkers, the Agricultural Labor Relations Act.

During this time, Huerta had a relationship with Richard Chavez, a brother of Cesar Chavez, and they had four children together. She also headed up the farm workers' union's political arm and helped lobby for legislative protections, including maintaining the ALRA. She helped found a radio station for the union, Radio Campesina, and spoke widely, including lecturing and testifying for protections for farmworkers.

Later Life and Continuing Activism

Huerta had a total of 11 children. Her work took her away from her children and family frequently, something she expressed regret for later. In 1988, while demonstrating peacefully against the policies of U.S. presidential candidate George Bush, Huerta was severely injured when police clubbed the demonstrators. She suffered broken ribs and her spleen had to be removed. She eventually won a large financial settlement from the police, and her efforts helped to bring about changes in police policy on handling demonstrations.

After her recovery from the attack, Huerta returned to working for the UFW. She is credited with holding the union together after Chavez's death in 1993. Huerta continues to be recognized for her efforts to better the working conditions of workers and of humanity in general and has received numerous awards including the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights in 1998, the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship in 2002, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.


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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Biography of Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers." ThoughtCo, Jul. 18, 2021, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2021, July 18). Biography of Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Biography of Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).