Birthplace: Dawson, New Mexico
Huerta grew up in California's agricultural San Joaquin Valley, where her mother owned a restaurant and a hotel that often let farm workers stay free. Huerta received a teaching degree from the University of the Pacific's Delta Community College. After teaching elementary school for a short time, Huerta left to work with farm workers. In 1955 Huerta was a founding member of the Stockton, Calif., chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO), which opposed segregation and lobbied for better conditions for farm workers.
After founding the Agricultural Workers Association in 1960, Huerta became a lobbyist in Sacramento. The following year, she fought for legislation making non-U.S. citizens eligible for pensions and public assistance. She also backed successful legislation that allowed people to vote and take driver's examinations in Spanish.
In 1962 Huerta and activist Cesar Chavez founded the organization that later became the United Farm Workers of America (UFW). In 1973 the UFW began a nationwide consumer boycott of California grapes, lettuce, and Gallo wines. The boycott resulted in the California table-grape growers signing a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the UFW. Another boycott resulted in passage of the U.S. Agricultural Labor Relations Act, giving farm workers the right to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions. Huerta, who has 11 children, 14 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren, has continued her political and social activism in support of rights for immigrants and women.