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.

MAKERS Moment

A Larger Purpose

A Larger Purpose

More From Marian

In this video

Edelman only stuck out in law school because she saw how desperately her fellow civil rights workers in Mississippi needed legal defense.

Marian's Biography

Most meaningful advice received: “From my father: ‘Follow the need. God runs a full employment economy and that service is the rent that each of us pays for living.’"
Two Role Models: “Two brilliant slave women - Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman.”
Proudest Accomplishment: Her children
First Paying Job: NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Marian Wright Edelman is a renowned activist who has been fighting for the rights of children for the last 40 years. Through the Children’s Defense Fund that she established in 1973, she has been a leading national voice for disadvantaged children and families.
Edelman grew up in South Carolina, the youngest of five children of a Baptist preacher who taught her early on about the importance of serving others and pursuing an education. As a graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, she became the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi bar in 1963. She began her legal career in the as an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and served as the director of the Jackson, Mississippi office, defending her peers in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as helping to establish the local Head Start program.
 
In 1968, she moved to Washington, D.C. as counsel for the Poor People's March that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death. Out of her work on poverty with Dr. King, she formed the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), a non-profit child advocacy organization that has now worked for nearly 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all of America’s children.
 
Edelman has received over a hundred honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In 2000, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings which include: Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change, The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, and Hold My Hand: Prayers for Building a Movement to Leave No Child Behind."

Related Videos

Rebecca Morris
Rebecca Morris
Abstract Painter

Rebecca Morris is known for revitalizing abstract painting through her acclaimed artwork. Among her many accomplishments, Morris is the recipient of the 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship,...

Claudia Chan
Claudia Chan
Entrepreneur & Journalism

Claudia Chan is the founder of ClaudiaChan.com, a for-purpose media brand that brings women’s empowering stories to one place. ClaudiaChan.com was launched in March 2012, 12 ...

Theresa Kane
Theresa Kane
Nun Who Confronted the Pope

In 1979, Sister Theresa Kane was serving as President of the US Leadership of the Women Religious when she was invited to publicly address Pope John Paul II during his visit to the...

Kathrine Switzer
Kathrine Switzer
First Woman to Enter the Boston Marathon

Kathrine Switzer was in the habit of signing her college papers “K.V. Switzer” and did so when she registered for the all-male Boston Marathon in 1967. She wasn’t...