Women in History – 23 May

Aileen Clarke Hernandez is an American union organizer, civil rights activist, and women’s rights activist.

She was born May 23, 1926, to Jamaican-American parents, was educated in New York City, and attended Howard University, where she received a magna cum laude degree in political science and sociology. She also has a master’s degree in government from California State University at Los Angeles and an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Southern Vermont College.

She was initially active as an organizer for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, and became the Education and Public Relations Director for the Pacific Coast Region of the Union. She became known nationally and was appointed by Lyndon Johnson in 1964 as the only woman to serve on the newly established Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

She was second national president of the National Organization for Women in 1970, and in 1973 was a co-founder of Black Women Organized for Action in San Francisco. She was one of the 2006 honorees of the National Women’s History Project. Her current position is coordinator of Black Women Stirring the Waters and chair of the California Women’s Agenda, a state action alliance of over 600 organizations.