September 1991

Marion Wright Edelman, Esq.

Advocate for disadvantaged children

Marion Wright Edelman, Esq.

In 1968 Marian Wright Edelman, Esq. founded the Washington Research Project, which became the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973. She has been an advocate for the disadvantaged, especially children, for most of her professional career. Mrs. Edelman started her work for children in the mid-1960s, when, after becoming the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the Legal Defense and Education Fund of the NAACP in Jackson, Mississippi. She worked on numerous civil rights cases and helped to stop attacks directed against the Child Development Group (CDG) of Mississippi. The DCDG was one of the largest Project Head Start Programs in the nation. It had over 100 centers in mostly rural, poor communities. She wanted to help save the children from poverty, ignorance, and malnutrition. The Children’s Defense Fund is the nation’s strongest and most effective voice in the areas of teenage pregnancy prevention, child health, education, childcare, child welfare and mental health and employment for young people. Mrs. Edelman believes that our country must invest in children in order to be strong and have future generations that produce. Based in Washington, DC, the Children’s Defense Fund researches issues, which affect children, analyzes laws which impact children, scrutinizes budgets for children and reviews all social issues that relate to children. Marian Edelman labors to get politicians to be advocates for children. Born in Bennettsville, South Carolina in 1939, the daughter of Reverend Arthur J. Wright and Maggie Leola Bowen Wright, Marian grew up in an environment that made African-Americans feel that they would not and could not achieve. Her parents admonished their children that it was their Christian duty to help their fellow human beings. They stressed that a good education and service were essential life ventures. Marian Wright graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta in 1960 and studied in Switzerland, France, and the Soviet Union. She earned a law degree from Yale University in 1963. Her interest in law was promoted as she observed the dismal plight of poor African-Americans who needed legal aid in the South. Mrs. Edelman has published widely. Her book, Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change, published by Harvard University Press, received rave reviews. She has traveled worldwide reviewing the international plight of children. Her numerous honors and awards give credence to the impact of her work. She received more than 47 honorary degrees from colleges-universities throughout the nation. She has received many honorary degrees and awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and most recently, the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom. Edelman was also a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellow and served on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College, which she chaired from 1976 to 1987. She has written several books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours. She is also the author of Guide My Feet: Meditations and Prayers on Loving and Working for Children; a children’s book, Stand for Children; and Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors, published in 1999.