Marian Wright Edelman: Founder of The Children’s Defense Fund

Written by Jae Jones

Marian Wright Edelman is an activist for children’s rights and was the first African-American woman admitted to The Mississippi Bar.

She was born in Bennettsville, South Carolina, in 1939. After the death of her father at age 14, Edelman was determined to let nothing stand in her way of getting a good education.

She later attended Marlboro Training High School and went on to Spelman College. Wright traveled the world on a Merrill scholarship and studied in the Soviet Union as a Lisle fellow. She became involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and after being arrested, she decided to attend Yale Law School where she earned a Juris Doctor in 1963. She became the first African-American woman admitted to The Mississippi Bar.

Edelman soon began practicing law with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s Mississippi office, working on racial justice issues connected with the civil rights movement and representing activists during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. She also worked to help establish a Head Start program.

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The Children’s Defense Fund was founded by Edelman as a voice for poor children, children of color, and children with disabilities. The organization serves as an advocacy and research center for children’s issues, documenting the problems and possible solutions for children in need. To keep the organization from being dependent on government assistance, she made sure it was privately funded.
On a tour by Robert Kennedy and Joseph Clark through Mississippi’s poverty-ridden Delta slums, Marian met Peter Edelman, who was an assistant to Kennedy. The next year she moved to Washington, D.C., to marry him and to work for social justice in the center of America’s political scene.
Edelman has also published many of her ideas in several books, including The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours was a Surprising Success.

About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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