Our Terms and Privacy Policy will be updated 9/15/14. By continuing to use AOL, you agree to the updates, and to arbitration of disputes. More. Hide message
Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

A Different Kind of Reproductive Rights

MAKERS Moment

A Different Kind of Reproductive Rights

More From Aileen

Watch in Cinema View

In this video

Hernandez explains how making abortion a key issue in the women’s movement was controversial for women of color and poor women who were dealing with forced sterilization.

Aileen's Biography

Causes of Choice: Coalition for Economic Equity; Black Women Stirring the Waters
Biggest Influence Never Met: Eleanor Roosevelt.
Childhood dream: To be a movie star, sing, and read poetry.
Three adjectives to describe herself:  “Nuts. Fortunately energetic. Inquisitive.”

Aileen Clarke Hernandez has been fighting against discrimination in all of its forms for over six decades. She has been President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Commissioner of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and Founder and President of the consulting firm Hernandez and Associates.
 
Aileen Clarke was born in Brooklyn in 1926, to a father who made painter’s brushes and a mother who was a homemaker. Clarke excelled in school and attended Howard University, where she was drawn into politics and the NAACP. In 1951, she took an organizing job with the West Coast division of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.
 
In 1965, she was appointed by Lyndon Johnson to be the only woman on the first established Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Frustrated by her fellow commissioners’ lack of attention to women’s complaints, she became a charter member of the NOW, and became the group’s second President when Betty Friedan stepped down in 1970. Under Hernandez’ guidance, NOW organized the Strike for Equality in 1971, an event that heralded the arrival to national prominence of the women’s movement.
 
Hernandez is celebrated for having played a key role in ensuring a voice for minorities in the women’s movement. In 1973, she founded the group Black Women Organized for Action. Now in her 80s, she chairs the California Women’s Agenda, a state alliance of over 600 organizations, and is the founder and coordinator of Black Women Stirring the Waters, a discussion group in the San Francisco Bay Area which, in 1998, published a book of essays by forty-four of its members.