Marian Wright Edelman: A Lifelong Advocate for Disadvantaged Americans

Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), has dedicated her entire professional life to advocating for disadvantaged Americans. Her leadership has transformed the CDF into the nation’s strongest voice for children and families, guided by the mission to Leave No Child Behind®. With a commitment to ensuring every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life, Edelman has worked tirelessly to support their successful passage to adulthood through caring families and communities.

Mrs. Edelman’s journey began as a trailblazer in the 1960s, graduating from Spelman College and Yale Law School. As the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. Her commitment to social justice led her to Washington, D.C., where she served as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign initiated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She then founded the Washington Research Project, laying the foundation for the Children’s Defense Fund, which she established in 1973.

Throughout her illustrious career, Mrs. Edelman has held significant positions in academia and advocacy. She chaired the Board of Trustees of Spelman College and was the first woman elected by alumni to the Yale University Corporation. Her contributions have been recognized with numerous honorary degrees and prestigious awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Beyond her professional achievements, Marian Wright Edelman remains deeply involved in philanthropic endeavors. She serves on the boards of organizations such as the Robin Hood Foundation and the Association to Benefit Children. Additionally, she is a member of esteemed institutions like the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Despite her busy career, Marian Wright Edelman finds balance in her personal life. She is married to Peter Edelman, a Professor at Georgetown Law School, and together they have raised three sons. Their family has expanded to include two granddaughters and two grandsons, who undoubtedly inspire her continued dedication to creating a better future for all children.

In conclusion, Marian Wright Edelman’s remarkable journey epitomizes a lifelong commitment to social justice and advocacy for the most vulnerable members of society. Through her leadership and tireless efforts, she has left an indelible mark on the landscape of child welfare.