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Aileen C. Hernandez papers

 Collection
Identifier: SSC-MS-00730

Scope and Contents

The Aileen C. Hernandez Papers documents the activist's life, particularly from the 1960s onward, and includes correspondence, reports, research notes, surveys, audiovisual materials in multiple formats, and newspaper clippings. There is also material related to the various projects undertaken by Hernandez Associates, comprising of correspondence, reports, and research materials.

[NOTE: The contents list for this collection is not online. Contact the Sophia Smith Collection if you would like one sent to you.]

Dates

  • 1926-2014

Creator

Language of Materials

English, Spanish

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use with following restrictions on access:

Three folders of financial, medical and sensitive material are closed.

Conditions Governing Access

Until we move into New Neilson in early 2021, collections are stored in multiple locations and may take up to 48 hours to retrieve. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact Special Collections (specialcollections@smith.edu) at least a week in advance of any planned visits so that boxes may be retrieved for them in a timely manner.

Biographical / Historical

Aileen Blanche Clarke Hernandez was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 23, 1926. She is the daughter of Ethel Hall Clarke, a talented seamstress, and Charles Clarke, Sr., an art supply executive. Both of her parents were Jamaican immigrants who instilled in Aileen and her two brothers a sense of fairness and the ambition to achieve all that they could in life. While the children were growing up, the Clarke family resided in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, at that time predominantly white. While Hernandez would later recall that her parents mentioned some initial "problems" as the only black family when they first moved there, it was not until she went to Howard University in Washington, DC, after graduating from the then all-girls Bay Ridge High School in 1943, that she first experienced institutional racism.

The nation's capital was then still very much a segregated city. Hernandez's response was to join the university's NAACP chapter and walk picket lines at the city's theaters and restaurants. She graduated from Howard, magna cum laude in 1947 with a degree in sociology and political science. While in college, Hernandez engaged in many extracurricular activities in addition to her involvement with the NAACP. She was part of the dance group, the drama club and editor of the student newspaper in her junior and senior years while also writing a regular column on the university for the Washington Tribune. After graduation she went to Norway and, through the International Student Exchange program, did graduate work in comparative government at the University of Oslo. After her return to the United States, Hernandez worked as a research assistant for one of her former professors at Howard before enrolling in graduate school at New York University. While there, she stumbled across an ad for an internship with the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) Training Institute. Hired in 1951, Hernandez would spend the next eleven years with the ILGWU as an organizer, educator, and doing public relations, primarily in the Union's Pacific Coast Region, based in Los Angeles. There, in 1957, she married Alfonso Hernandez, a garment cutter. The marriage ended in 1961, the same year that Aileen Clarke Hernandez received her master's degree, summa cum laude, in government.

Leaving the ILGWU in late 1961, Hernandez joined the Alan Cranston campaign for California State Controller as the political campaign coordinator. A year later, she was appointed Assistant Chief of the California Division of Fair Employment. In 1965 Hernandez was the only woman appointed to the newly created United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a Great Society initiative to combat unfair labor policies on the basis of race and gender. Soon frustrated by the lack of enforcement powers at the EEOC and the rest of the commission's unwillingness to pursue a case against the nation's airlines over their discriminatory practices with regard to flight attendants, Hernandez would be one of the founding members in late 1966 of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She left the EEOC, returned to her home in San Francisco and served as Western Vice President of NOW, at the same time opening her own business, Hernandez Associates, an urban affairs and management consulting firm. Hernandez served as national president of NOW for one year, succeeding co-founder and first president, Betty Friedan.

A gifted speaker and skillful organizer, Hernandez would be active in the fight for racial and gender equality, on both the local and national levels, for the next several decades. In 1973 she co-founded the San Francisco Bay Area Black Women Organized for Action and, later, Black Women Stirring the Waters. She served on multiple boards, including the Ms. Foundation for Women, the National Urban League, and the Coalition for Economic Equity. Well into her eighties, Hernandez remained active, serving as chair of the California Women's Agenda (CAWA), an outgrowth of the 1995 Beijing Conference, which she had attended. In 2005, she was one of a thousand women nominated globally for the Nobel Peace Prize and has earned numerous other awards in honor of her seemingly tireless efforts on behalf of women and people of color.

Extent

153 boxes (151 linear feet)

Overview

Comprised of correspondence, reports, research notes, surveys, audiovisual materials, and newspaper clippings from the papers of Aileen C. Hernandez, activist and civic leader. These papers document the life of Aileen C. Hernandez, activist and civic leader.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of Aileen C. Hernandez were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection in 2014.

Related Materials

Related materials may be found in the following collection:

Processing Information

Accessioned by Kathleen Banks Nutter, 2015.
Title
Aileen C. Hernandez papers
Subtitle
Finding Aid
Author
Finding aid prepared by .
Date
2015
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Contact:
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton MA 01063