With Her Fist Raised: Dorothy Pitman Hughes and the Transformative Power of Black Community Activism

Beacon. Jan. 2021. 176p. ISBN 9780807008898. $26.95. BIOG
Every feminist knows the iconic photograph of Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes raising their fists in interracial solidarity. While readers know Steinem’s life inside and out, the story of Hughes (b. 1938), and her accomplishments as an activist, have faded into obscurity. Historian Lovett’s (Conceiving the Future; When We Were Free to Be) biography of Hughes brings much-needed attention to her life and highlights her struggles with both racism and sexism. Born in rural Georgia, Hughes moved to New York as a teenager to pursue a career as a nightclub singer and worked as a maid to support herself. After struggling to find childcare for her children, she opened her own daycare center. It became a model for community-oriented centers and she became an activist for that cause, meeting Gloria Steinem when the journalist interviewed her for a story. The two feminists toured the country speaking together for years, although Steinem received much more attention. Hughes went on to own a copy and office supply store in Harlem and fight a losing battle against gentrification there, retiring to Florida where she still lives today.
VERDICT This essential, well-written biography fills a huge gap in the history of American feminism.
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