Dorothy Height served as President of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), member of the National Board of the YWCA, Director-Consultant of the Action program for Desegregation and Integration of the YWCA, and former President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. An African-American, she was born in Virginia in 1912 and raised in Rankin, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. After winning a scholarship in a national high school oratory contest, she received her bachelors and master's degrees in four years at New York University and later did postgraduate work at Columbia University and New York School of Social Work.
In 1937, while working for the Harlem Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), Height was asked to escort Eleanor Roosevelt to a meeting with NCNW founder Mary McLeod Bethune. Bethune was so impressed with Height that she asked her to volunteer with the Council, and thus began Height's long association with the organization. She became President of the NCNW in 1958 and carried forward Bethune's philosophy that the organization should work for social justice by employing interracial, interfaith efforts, which blended well with Height's deeply rooted Christian faith. Height served throughout the 1960s as the only woman head of a national black women's organization among the male-dominated leadership in the civil rights movement. In that capacity, she worked to expand the dialogue beyond desegregation to include issues important to women, such as housing, education, child care, hunger, and employment. Height retired from the YWCA in 1977 and the presidency of the NCNW in 1998, however, she continued as NCNW Chair and President Emerita. Height has received numerous honorary degrees and awards for her service to interracial, interfaith efforts to improve the lives of women and African-Americans around the globe. These include the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal.