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Remembering Women's Rights Activist Aileen Hernandez

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Decades before the Women's March on Washington was born, Aileen Hernandez began her lifelong fight for women's rights. She died on February 13 at the age of 90 from complications of dementia. Hernandez was the first woman of color to serve as president of the National Organization for Women. And she was the first woman appointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Council.

DEZIE WOODS-JONES: Aileen, she was just nonstop.

KELLY: Dezie Woods-Jones knew Hernandez for more than 50 years.

WOODS-JONES: She was eloquent to me inside and out. But she was also a serious woman. She was sincere about her passion and her work.

KELLY: Dezie Woods-Jones and Aileen Hernandez first worked together to found the activist group Black Women Organizing for Political Action. The two of them, along with 11 others, wanted to see more women, particularly more women of color, run for office and join the feminist movement.

WOODS-JONES: It was very important, from Aileen's perspective, that all women were facing injustices and that we needed to have a presence - I'll quote, at that time, in what we referred to as the "white woman's" - in the feminist movement, where there was really not, at that time, a lot of women of color engaged in what we call the feminist movement.

KELLY: The world has changed since then. Woods-Jones says, that is thanks, in part, to pioneers like her friend, Aileen Hernandez.

WOODS-JONES: You know, we often - as things pass, it's all about now. And we forget the history and the trailblazers that laid the ground for what is going on today. And from that perspective, she clearly was one of those trailblazers especially for women and also, of course, for African-American women in particular. But across the board, she made a difference. And she inspired thousands of people.

KELLY: That was Dezie Woods-Jones speaking about Aileen Hernandez, who died at age 90 last month. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.