Born in Stockton, California to a migrant farm community in 1930, Dolores Huerta started out with a brief career as a teacher. She quickly moved on to co-founding the Community Service Organization in 1955, which created the Agricultural Workers Association in 1960. Huerta backed many notable pieces of legislation, including the ability to take the California driver’s exam in Spanish.
She also co-founded what became United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez in 1960 and together they became the guiding force of the labor movement in California. They gained a powerful allies, including civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
She stood just feet from the former attorney general when he was shot in 1968. Huerta even came up with the phrase, “Si se puede! Si se puede! (Yes we can).” This became her rallying cry during labor marches, and President Barack Obama openly admits he stole her slogan for his 2008 presidential campaign.
He later repaid her by presenting her with the presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, one of many prestigious awards she has earned. Today she continues to advocate for immigration reform, though like many labor leaders in the 1980s, she opposed Reagan’s immigration reform.