[Editors' Note: The funeral for civil rights leaders Dr. Dorothy Height takes place today at the Washington National Cathedral. ACS is re-posting this guest contribution honoring Dr. Height's work.]
By Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office
The passing of Dr. Dorothy Height was a huge loss to the nation, particularly to American women. She inspired me and so many women leaders because she embraced and nurtured her sisters and daughters in the movement. I lost a role model and a mentor who, whenever we met, always clasped my hand in hers, looked me in the eyes and said, "Carry on."
She had a determination to stand her ground as a leader for over seventy years throughout the entire modern day civil rights movement which is sadly, to this day, a deeply male-dominated sphere. It is striking how Dr. Height outlasted so many men who were the civil rights leaders of the moment. It was her extraordinary combination of skills and attributes that were hardwired into her being: a tremendous memory for names, dates and events, flawless command of the English language, a unique speaking voice, an elegant style of dressing, her height, her steady temperament and unwavering good manners. Dr. Height was the embodiment of a dominant yet subtle form of grace.
Dr. Height's quick mind could out-maneuver compatriots and adversaries. She was the tortoise and not the hare in the race. She stood steadfast with a regal bearing and a twinkle in her eye while the guys rushed to grab the microphone, and effectively chided them without humiliation when they forgot that women are the backbone of the most durable black institutions -- whether it is the church, the voter registration efforts, the sororities, the Links, Jack & Jill, or her own National Council of Negro Women -- groups with longevity and real staying power. Our mothers and sisters licked the envelopes, went door to door, registered the voters, went to the polls, fed the leaders and trained the kids to keep the movement going. Dr. Height never forgot about us.