Four Inspirational, Lesser-Known Women Civil Rights Leaders

Women have played a large role in making America a more just society. Nevertheless, history seems to ignore their achievements. Though missing from the textbooks, these four women are an inspiration to anyone who is facing injustice today.  

1. Jo Ann Gibson Robinson

Mrs. Robinson helped begin the 1955–56 Montgomery Bus Boycott. In general, historians give the nod to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

While Dr. King did head the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), Robinson, a leader of the Women's Political Council (WPC), had been planning bus boycotts since 1950.

On December 1, 1955, police arrested activist Rosa Parks on a city bus. Robinson, using WPC flyers printed at the college where she taught, informed the community of the planned protest. It would only be after the success of the boycott, began by Robinson and the WPC, that Dr. King's MIA would become the central controlling organization of the citywide effort.

2. Dolores Huerta

Huerta was a co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, with the better-known Cesar Chavez. Huerta did much of the strategizing and organizing, while Chavez handled the public speaking role.

3. Fannie Lou Hamer

Hamer was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). A sharecropper from the Mississippi Delta, she was instrumental in getting other poor African Americans registered to vote. As a result, she spent time in jail and lost her job.

In 1964, Hamer helped form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). This group went to the national convention, held that year in Atlantic City, with the goal of racially integrating the state delegation.

Hamer gave rousing testimony on the work civil rights volunteers had done. The only problem was that the major networks had turned off the television cameras. Most Americans missed hearing what many considered the most effective speech of the political season.

Hamer was an example of the strength and resilience of women throughout the nation, despite lack of exposure.

4. Ella Baker

Baker was a leader of SNCC from North Carolina. She believed that some civil rights organizations were too male-dominated. In contrast, Baker called for SNCC to be a more democratic organization. She referred to it a participatory democracy, in which all members, including women, had a voice. Baker was a feminist working within the larger struggle for civil rights.

The Battle to Be Inclusive Continues Today

The struggle for civil rights continues today. Though society is obviously less unjust, there remains discrimination and gender inequality.

Just as history has ignored many of the contributions of women to the struggle for equality, society at times neglects those who need assistance acquiring justice. Civil rights attorneys help ensure that the voices of those who may not be rich and powerful are heard.

Anyone with a civil rights complaint should contact a legal advocate, such as Marie A. Mattox, P.A., as soon as possible.