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Dorothy Pitman Hughes, American black feminist and activist, dies at 84

Pioneering African-American feminist Dorothy Pitman Hughes, a community activist who toured the United States speaking with Gloria Steinem in the 1970s and appears with her in one of the most iconic photos of the second-wave feminist movement, has died. She was 84 years old.

Hughes, also a child welfare advocate, died on December 1 in Tampa, Florida, at the home of her daughter, Deethia Ridley Malmsten, who said the cause was old age.

Hughes and Steinem, a journalist and political activist, forged a powerful speakers association in the early 1970s, touring the country at a time when feminism was seen as predominantly white and middle-class. Steinem credited Hughes with helping her feel comfortable speaking in public.

In one of the most famous images of the time, taken in October 1971, the two raised their right arms in the Black Power salute. The photo is now on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

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Born Dorothy Jean Ridley on Oct. 2, 1938, in Lumpkin, Georgia, Hughes became an activist at a young age, according to a family obituary.

She organized the first battered women’s shelter in New York City and co-founded the New York City Agency for Child Development to expand child care services in the city. She has also established a community center on the West Side of Manhattan, which offers childcare, job training, advocacy training and more for many families.

In the 1960s he became involved in the civil rights movement and other causes, working with Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and others.

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In the late 1960s, he created the West 80th Street Child Care Center, which provides day care as well as support for parents. It was there that she met Steinem, who was writing a story about the center. They then became friends and conversation partners, tackling issues of gender and race on college campuses, community centers, and other venues across the country.

In the early 1970s, Hughes also helped found, with Steinem, the Women’s Action Alliance, a broad network of feminist activists with the goal of coordinating resources and advancing equality on a national level.

In the 1980s, Hughes moved to Harlem and opened Harlem Office Supply, the rare stationery store at the time to be run by a black woman. She was forced to sell the store when she opened a Staples nearby, part of President Bill Clinton’s Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone program.

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She would recall some of her experiences in her 2000 book, Wake Up and Smell the Dollars! Whose Downtown Is This Anyway!: One Woman’s Struggle Against Sexism, Classism, Racism, Gentrification, and the Empowerment Zone.

In Ms Magazine, Laura L Lovett, whose biography of Hughes, With Her Fist Raised, was published last year, said the activist “defined herself as a feminist, but she rooted her feminism in her experience and more fundamental needs for safety, food, shelter and childcare”.

He is survived by three daughters: Malmsten, Patrice Quinn, and Angela Hughes.

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