Dorothy Height, a leader of the African-American and women’s rights movements who was considered both the grande dame of the civil rights era and its unsung heroine, died on Tuesday in Washington. She was 98.
The death, at Howard University Hospital, was announced jointly by the hospital and the National Council of Negro Women, which Ms. Height had led for four decades. A longtime Washington resident, Ms. Height was the council’s president emerita at her death.
One of the last living links to the social activism of the New Deal era, Ms. Height had a career in civil rights that spanned nearly 80 years, from anti-lynching protests in the early 1930s to the inauguration of President Obama in 2009. That the American social landscape looks as it does today owes in no small part to her work.
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Originally trained as a social worker, Ms. Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1957 to 1997, overseeing a range of programs on issues like voting rights, poverty and in later years AIDS. A longtime executive of the Y.W.C.A., she presided over the integration of its facilities nationwide in the 1940s.
With Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan and others, she helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. Over the decades, she advised a string of American presidents on civil rights.
If Ms. Height was less well known than her contemporaries in either the civil rights or women’s movement, it was perhaps because she was doubly marginalized, pushed offstage by women’s groups because of her race and by black groups because of her sex.