Dolores Huerta was born in 1930 in New Mexico. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and she was raised by her mother in Stockton, California, with the active help of her grandfather, Herculano Chavez.
Her mother ran a restaurant and then a hotel, where Dolores Huerta helped out as she grew older. She also kept in touch with her father and his struggles to make a living as a migrant laborer and coal miner. His union activity helped inspire her own work with a Hispanic self-help association. She married in college, divorcing her first husband 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.
Dolores Huerta became involved in a community group supporting farm workers which merged with the AFL-CIO’s Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC). Dolores Huerta served as secretary-treasurer of the AWOC. It was during this time that she met Cesar Chavez, and then formed with him the Farm Workers Association, which eventually became the United Farm Workers (UFW).
Dolores Huerta served a key role in the early years of farm worker organizing, though 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.
In the 1970s Huerta headed up the farm workers’ union’s political arm and helped lobby for legislative protections.
In 1988, while demonstrating peacefully against the policies of candidate George Bush, she was severely injured when police clubbed the demonstrators. She eventually won a considerable financial settlement from the police, as well as changes in police policy on handling demonstrations.
After her recovery from this life-threatening attack, Dolores Huerta returned to working for the farm workers’ union.
Dolores Huerta had a total of eleven children, including four with Richard Chavez, brother of Cesar Chavez.
- Susan Ferriss, Ricardo Sandoval, Diana Hembree (editor). The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement. Paperback, 1998.