Dorothy Pitman Hughes useless: Black feminist impressed Ms. Journal


Dorothy Pitman Hughes, a pioneering Black feminist, baby welfare advocate and lifelong group activist who toured the nation talking with Gloria Steinem within the Nineteen Seventies and impressed the founding of Ms. Journal, died at 84.

Hughes died at his daughter’s house in Tampa, Fla., on Dec. 1. Her daughter, Delethia Ridley Malmsten, mentioned she died of pure causes.

Though they got here to their feminist activism from totally different factors of view—Hughes from her community-based work and Steinem from journalism—the 2 cast a robust talking partnership within the early Nineteen Seventies, touring the nation at a time when feminism was seen as predominantly white and center class, a divide courting again to the origins of the American ladies’s motion. Steinem credited Hughes with serving to her turn into snug talking in public.

In one of the crucial well-known pictures of the period, taken in October 1971, the 2 raised their proper arms within the Black energy salute. The photograph is now within the Nationwide Portrait Gallery.

Hughes, her work at all times rooted in group activism, organized the primary shelter for battered ladies in New York and co-founded the New York Metropolis Company for Baby Improvement to develop baby care companies within the metropolis. However she was maybe finest identified for her work serving to numerous households via the group middle she established on Manhattan’s West Facet, providing day care, job coaching, lobbying coaching and extra.

“She took households off the road and gave them jobs,” Malmsten mentioned.

“My good friend Dorothy Pitman Hughes ran a pioneering neighborhood baby care middle on the west aspect of Manhattan,” Steinem mentioned in an e mail. “We met within the seventies after I wrote about that nursery, and we turned audio system and lifelong mates. She shall be missed, but when we proceed to inform her story, she is going to proceed to encourage us all.”

Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes in 2014.

(Astrid Stawiarz)

Laura L. Lovett, whose biography of Hughes, “With Her Fist Raised,” was printed final yr, mentioned in Ms. Journal that Hughes “outlined herself as a feminist, however rooted her feminism in her expertise and in additional basic wants for security. , meals, shelter and baby care.”

Born Dorothy Jean Ridley on Oct. 2, 1938, in Lumpkin, Ga., Hughes dedicated to activism at an early age, in response to her household. When she was 10, her father was practically overwhelmed to loss of life and left on the household’s doorstep. The household believed he was attacked by the Ku Klux Klan, and Hughes determined to dedicate himself to serving to others via activism, in response to her household.

She moved to New York within the late Nineteen Fifties when she was virtually 20 and labored as a saleswoman, nightclub singer and home cleaner. From the Sixties she turned concerned within the civil rights motion and different causes, working with the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and others.

Within the late Sixties, she arrange her West eightieth Road Baby Care Middle, offering daycare in addition to assist for folks.

“She famous that baby care challenges had been deeply intertwined with problems with racial discrimination, poverty, drug use, insufficient housing, welfare lodges, job coaching and even the Vietnam Struggle,” Lovett wrote final yr.

It was on the middle that Hughes met Steinem, then a journalist writing a narrative for New York Journal. They turned mates and, from 1969 to 1973, spoke throughout the nation at school campuses, group facilities and different venues on problems with gender and race.

“Dorothy’s fashion was to name out the racism she noticed within the white ladies’s motion,” Lovett mentioned in Ms. “She typically took to the stage to precise the way in which white ladies’s privilege oppressed black ladies but in addition supplied her friendship with Gloria as proof that this impediment may very well be overcome.”

Within the early Nineteen Seventies Hughes additionally helped discovered, with Steinem, the Ladies’s Motion Alliance, a broad community of feminist activists aiming to coordinate sources and push for equality on a nationwide stage. Though Hughes is usually mentioned to have additionally co-founded Ms. Journal with Steinem on the similar time and biographer Lovett mentioned she helped encourage the thought, she had no formal position with the journal.

“It was our distinction in expertise that made us good lecture companions,” Steinem famous. She additionally recalled working with Hughes whereas protesting so-called “welfare lodges” in New York for poor households within the Nineteen Seventies. “Dorothy was key to exposing residing situations there,” Steinem mentioned. “She actually was an ideal group activist.”

By the Eighties, Hughes moved to Harlem and opened an workplace provide enterprise, Harlem Workplace Provide, the uncommon stationery retailer on the time that was run by a black lady. However she was pressured to promote the shop when Staples opened close by, a part of President Clinton’s Higher Manhattan Empowerment Zone program.

Hughes was portrayed in “The Glorias,” the 2020 movie about Steinem, by actor Janelle Monaé.

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



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