Dorothy Irene Height started working as a caseworker with the New York City Welfare Department and, at the age of twenty-five, she began a career as a civil rights activist when she joined the National Council of Negro Women. She fought for equal rights for both African Americans and women, and in 1944 she joined the national staff of the YMCA. She also served as National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority from 1946 to 1957. She remained active with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority throughout her life. While there she developed leadership training programs and interracial and ecumenical education programs.
Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held until 1997. During the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Height organized “Wednesdays in Mississippi,” which brought together black and white women from the North and South to create a dialogue of understanding.
American leaders regularly took her counsel, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Height also encouraged President Dwight D. Eisenhower to desegregate schools and President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African-American women to positions in government. In the mid-1960s, Height wrote a column entitled “A Woman’s Word” for the weekly African-American newspaper, the New York Amsterdam News and her first column appeared in the March 20, 1965.
Height served on a number of committees, including as a consultant on African affairs to the Secretary of State, the President’s Committee on the Employment of the Handicapped, and the President’s Committee on the Status of Women. In 1974, Height was named to the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, which published The Belmont Report, a response to the infamous “Tuskegee Syphilis Study” and an international ethical touchstone for researchers to this day.
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