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Dorothy Pitman Hughes, a Black feminist and child welfare advocate, died on December 1, 2022. The woman who founded one of the first shelters for battered women in New York City was 84 years old. 

Dorothy Pitman Hughes was a well-known advocate for women, who partnered up with Gloria Steinem in the 1970s to represent Black feminism. According to her biographer, Laura L Lovett, she “defined herself as a feminist, but rooted her feminism in her experience and in more fundamental needs for safety, food, shelter and child care.”

Dorothy Pitman Hughes was a tireless advocate for women and children in New York City. She established a community center for families in New York, providing day care for children and job training for women. 

Further, she also co-founded New York City Agency for Child Development. The organization expanded childcare resources and services for families in the city. 

Meanwhile, it was Dorothy Pitman Hughes’ friendship with Steinem that brought her more public accolades. Dorothy Pitman Hughes’ place in the Feminist movement brought Black and Brown Feminism to light. 

Remembering Dorothy Pitman Hughes

In an iconic photograph, the two stand side-by-side with their arms raised in the Black power salute. The portrait sits inside the National Gallery.

According to Ms. Steinem, “My friend ran a pioneering neighborhood childcare center on the west side of Manhattan. We met in the seventies when I wrote about that childcare center, and we became speaking partners and lifetime friends.”

Hughes was a lifelong activist who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. Her passion was supporting and advocating for women and their families.

According to Lovett, Hughes “realized that child-care challenges were deeply entangled with issues of racial discrimination, poverty, drug use, substandard housing, welfare hotels, job training and even the Vietnam War. She recognized that the strongest anchor for local community action centered on children and worked to fix the roots of inequality in her community.”

Dorothy Pitman Hughes died at the home of her daughter and son-in-law. According to Steinem, “she will be missed, but if we keep telling her story, she will keep inspiring us all.”

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...