News USA Dorothy Pitman Hughes, icon of American feminism, dies at 84

Dorothy Pitman Hughes, icon of American feminism, dies at 84

The pioneer of American black feminism Dorothy Pitman Hughes has died in Tampa (Florida) at the age of 84. The 1971 photo of her raising her fist with Gloria Steinem, another icon of feminism, became the most powerful image of interracial sisterhood in the fight for women’s rights. Pitman died on December 1, but the news has not come out until Saturday night.

Pitman was born in Lumpkin, Georgia in October 1938 into rural black America. When he was 10 years old, his father was nearly beaten to death and left on his doorstep in what the family believed was a Ku Klux Klan attack. She moved to New York in 1957 where she embarked on all kinds of activism for civil rights, racial equality and feminism, with a special focus on caring for vulnerable children.

During the 1960s she worked as a saleswoman, cleaning houses, and as a singer in nightclubs. According to her official biography, With her fist raised Written by University of Pittsburgh history professor Laura L. Lovett and published in early 2021, Pitman’s first act of activism was fundraising for the Congress of Racial Equality in the early 1960s. He was involved in the fight for civil rights and met Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

As she worked at night as a singer and was home during the day, she realized that the children in her neighborhood were forced to take care of their younger siblings, assuming adult tasks. In the late 1960s, also in part out of a need for an alternative for her own daughters, Pitman organized a multiracial cooperative daycare center on New York’s West Side, the West 80th Community Childcare Center.

He soon realized that the problems in the neighborhood were not only child care but poverty, drugs, racial discrimination, vulnerable homes and lack of training, among others, so that community center expanded its radius of action, offering services childcare, job training, advocacy training and many other services. “Dorothy’s activism was amazingly multifaceted,” writes Laura L. Lovett in her biography. “She rooted her feminism in her experience and in more fundamental needs for security, food, shelter and childcare,” she adds.

Gloria Steinem, columnist for New York Magazine, In 1968 she went to see that center to write about it and they both became friends. At that time, Pitman was already an activist, while Steinem was a journalist interested in feminism and social issues. With the experience of performing on stage and leading social protests, it was the African-American who encouraged Steinem to start speaking together in public about the feminist movement. The two traveled around the country between 1969 and 1973 giving speeches at universities, community centers and other venues. Lovett points out that Steinem was the first white woman to enter the local church in her home community in Georgia.

On the occasion of that tour, which was daring at the time, the photo that now hangs on the walls of the National Portrait Museum in downtown Washington was taken. Pitman and Steinem needed a poster for their calls, and photographer Dan Wynn offered to do it for free. Both wearing turtleneck sweaters, Steinem with her blonde hair and Pitman with his Afro, posed defiantly with their fist raised, the Black Power gesture, in an intentionally provocative image that quickly became iconic and was later recreated by some other time throughout his life. The photo was published in the magazine esquire with the caption “Body and Soul: Gloria Steinem and her partner, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, show off the style that has raved about audiences on their speaking tour.”

After the popularity gained on her tour, Pitman Hughes encouraged Steinem to co-found the magazine with other partners. Ms., which began as a special edition of the New York Magazine and soon became a benchmark for the feminist movement. “Dorothy’s style was to denounce the racism that she saw in the white women’s movement. She often took the stage to articulate how white women’s privilege oppressed black women, but she also offered her friendship with Gloria as proof that this obstacle could be overcome, ”Lovett noted a little further ago. one year to the magazine ms.

She campaigned for the Democratic Party and remained immersed in activism. In the 1980s she moved to Harlem, where she opened her own business in the 1990s, the first black woman-owned stationery, office supply and copy shop in Harlem. She thought that President Bill Clinton’s neighborhood development program launched in 1994 would be a great opportunity for black entrepreneurs in the neighborhood, and she got involved. However, she later became very critical because she ended up benefiting the big chains more than the local merchants, according to Lovett. Pitman left her Home Office Supply after the giant Staples opened in the area.

While Steinem has remained in the spotlight as a great star of the feminist movement, Pitman fell somewhat into oblivion. With a lower profile, she has remained a community activist in Florida. She was the mother of three daughters.

Steinem herself has paid tribute to him. “We became fellow socialites and friends for life. We will miss her, but if we continue to tell her story, she will continue to inspire all of us,” she told the AP.

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