Black feminist pioneer Dorothy Pitman Hughes dies at 84

NEW YORK (AP) — Dorothy Pitman Hughes, a pioneering black feminist, child welfare advocate and lifelong community activist, traveled the country in the 1970s with Glory Gloria Steinem, who spoke to, and appeared with, in some of the most iconic photos of the second-wave feminist movement, is dead. She is 84 years old.

Hughes died in December. Maurice Sconiers of Sconiers Funeral Home in Columbus, Georgia, said she was first in line for her daughter and son-in-law’s home in Tampa, Florida. Her daughter, Delethia Ridley Malmsten, said age was the reason.

Although they came to feminism from different places — Hughes from community activism and Steinem from journalism — the two formed a strong speaking partnership in the early 1970s, where feminism was seen as Touring the country at a time when it was predominantly white and middle-class, a watershed date goes back to the origins of the American women’s movement. Steinem credited Hughes with helping her speak comfortably in public.

In one of the most famous photographs of the era, taken in October 1971, the pair raise their right arms in tribute to Black Power. The photo is now in the National Portrait Gallery.

Always rooted in community activism, Hughes organized the first shelter for battered women in New York City and co-founded the New York City Agency for Child Development to expand child care services in the city. But she is perhaps best known for helping countless families through the community centers she founded on Manhattan’s West Side, offering day care, job training, advocacy training and more.

“She keeps families off the streets and gives them work,” her daughter Malmsten told The Associated Press on Sunday, reflecting on what she considers her mother’s most important job.

Steinem also praised Hughes for his community work. “My friend Dorothy Pitman Hughes runs a pioneering community child care center on the West Side of Manhattan,” Steinem said in an email. “I met us when I wrote about that childcare center in the 70s, and we became talking partners and lifelong friends. She will be missed, but if we continue to tell her story, she will continue to inspire us all.”

Laura L. Lovett, biography of Hughes “Fists Raised,” It came out last year, Ms. Yu said. magazine (of which Pitman and Steinem were co-founders) argued that Hughes “defined herself as a feminist, but her feminism was rooted in her experiences and more basic needs for safety, food, shelter, and child care. ”

Born Dorothy Jean Ridley in October. On February 2, 1938, in Lumpkin, Georgia, Hughes devoted herself to activism as a child, according to an obituary written by her family. It is said that when she was 10 years old, her father was nearly beaten to death and left outside the house. The family believed he had been attacked by the Ku Klux Klan, and Hughes decided to dedicate his life to helping others through activism.

She moved to New York City in the late 1950s, when she was in her late 20s, working as a salesperson, nightclub singer and house cleaner. By the 1960s, she became involved in the civil rights movement and other causes, working with Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and others.

In the late 1960s, she opened her own store on West 80th Street. A community center that provides care for children and supports their parents.

“She recognized that the challenges of parenting were deeply intertwined with issues of racism, poverty, drug use, substandard housing, welfare hotels, job training and even the Vietnam War,” Lovett wrote last year. Hughes “recognizes that the strongest pillars of local community action are child-centred and works to address the roots of community inequality.”

It was at the center that she met Steinem when he was a reporter writing stories for New York Magazine. They became friends, and from 1969 to 1973 they spoke on gender and race issues on college campuses, community centers and other venues across the country.

“It was Dorothy’s style to speak out about the racism she saw in the white women’s movement,” Lovett said in Ms.“She often took to the stage to shed light on the ways white women’s privilege oppresses black women, but also said her friendship with Gloria proved that barrier can be overcome.”

By the ’80s, Hughes was an entrepreneur. She moved to Harlem and opened an office supplies company, Harlem Office Supply, a rare stationery store run by a black woman at the time. But she was forced to sell the store when Staples opened nearby, part of President Bill Clinton’s Upper Manhattan Empowerment District initiative.

She will remember her 2000 book Wake Up and Smell the Dollars! Whose Downtown Is This!: One Woman’s Struggle with Sexism, Classism, Racism, Gentrification, and Empowerment.

Hughes is portrayed by actor Janelle Monet in the 2020 film “Glory” about Steinem.

She is survived by three daughters: Malmsten, Patrice Quinn and Angela Hughes.


Associated Press National Writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report.

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