10 Reasons Marian Wright Edelman Is My She-Ro


  1. Marian Wright Edelman was the daughter of a Baptist minister and raised in South Carolina. He died when she was 14, and his last words to her were “don’t let anything get in the way of your education.” She went on to earn her undergraduate degree from Spelman College. While in undergrad, she traveled the world on a Merrill Scholarship and studied in the Soviet Union as a Lisle Fellow. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and went on to earn her law degree from Yale.

  3. Edelman became the first black person to be admitted to the Mississippi Bar. She represented activists during the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. Then she joined the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund in 1968 and moved to DC. While in DC, she also contributed to Martin Luther King’s Poor People Campaign and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

  5. Edelman founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and also became interested in issues related to childhood development and poverty-stricken children.
  6. As a result of that interest, in 1973 Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund as a voice for poor, minority and disabled children.

  8. Edelman served on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College, which she chaired from 1976 to 1987. She was the first woman elected by alumni as a member of the Yale University Corporation. She she served in that position from 1971 to 1977.

  10. She has received over a hundred honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In 2000, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award.


  12. If all those accomplishments weren’t enough, Edelman is an accomplished author. Her books include:


  13. She is a board member of the Robin Hood Foundation (funds and supports innovative poverty-fighting organizations in New York City), the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (non-partisan research and policy institute working on federal and state fiscal policies and public programs affecting low- and moderate-income Americans), and the Association to Benefit Children (children’s advocacy group with an array of programs that provide services in education, health, housing, mental health and employment), and is a member of the Selection Committee of the Profiles in Courage Award of the John F. Kennedy Library, the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

  15. She is married to Peter Edelman, a Professor at Georgetown Law School. They have three sons, Joshua, Jonah, and Ezra, two granddaughters, Ellika and Zoe, and two grandsons, Elijah and Levi (her husband is Jewish).

  17. Marian Wright Edelman is my she-ro because she used her father’s lesson that Christianity obligates one to service and works to serve children living in poverty and improve civil rights. But at the same time, she did not sacrifice her own happiness in life – she married and raised a family. She comes from a generation where injustice was all around her, and she raised herself up from her poor, Southern roots to accomplish so much. Now us 20- and 30-somethings should use Edelman as an example of a life where one can advocate for others, build up our communities, without being a martyr to the cause or sacrificing our happiness in the process.

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