Marian Wright Edelman, civil rights activist and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, has dedicated her life to those who cannot always lift themselves up.
Edelman obtained a law degree at Yale and worked in Mississippi, becoming the first African-American woman to be admitted to that state’s bar. As a leader with the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Edelman helped coordinate the Poor People’s Campaign after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. She founded the Children’s Defense Fund in the 1970s, to apply pressure on the federal government to help poor children, and to coordinate nationwide activities to help children. Considered the nation’s most powerful children’s lobby, CDF secured the 1990 Act for Better Child Care, bringing more than $3 billion into daycare facilities and other programs. Many consider this law the first federal government acknowledgment that children matter.
With millions of American children living in poverty, Edelman continues her advocacy, focusing on expanding Head Start, health care and support for homeless children. In 1993 Edelman published her book, The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours. She is the recipient of many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.