Rev. Addie Wyatt, the first black female international vice president of a major American labor union, died Wednesday in a Chicago hospital. She was 88.
The trailblazing Wyatt, who died of undisclosed illness two days after being admitted to Advocate Trinity Hospital, spent her life fighting against gender and racial discrimination in the workplace.
She was an integral participant and leader in the major Civil Rights marches and her adept ability to organize was employed by six presidents, according to an ABC 7 Chicago news report.
For example, Eleanor Roosevelt even selected her to serve on President John F. Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women.
Born in March 28, 1924, in Brookhaven, Miss., Wyatt moved to Chicago in 1930 and married Claude S. Wyatt Jr. in 1940. By 1955, she became an ordained pastor and cofounded Vernon Park Church of God on Chicago’s South Side with her husband who died last April after 69 years of marriage.
But Wyatt’s commitment to social justice will perhaps be her most lasting legacy as she parlayed a meatpacking plant job into rising through the union ranks to become the first female vice president of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America.
She was also a founder of the National Organization for Women. And Wyatt and her husband often marched with Dr. Mart Luther King Jr. who later commissioned her to help start Operation Breadbasket, a program operating in 12 cities that helped distribute food. The organization later grew into the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, according to a UPI report.
In 1975, TIME named her one of the magazine’s “Women of the Year.”
Maude McKay, 74, the Rev. Wyatt’s sole surviving sibling, told the Chicago Sun-Times:
“She always believed in being fair and honest, and she stood for what was right. She just couldn’t take injustice.”
Watch this ABC 7 Chicago news video about her life and legacy:
Brett Johnson is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based writer and the founder of the music and culture blog VeryArtistical.com.