The series is cosponsored by the Caltech Y and the Caltech Women's Center, and aimed at providing Caltech students with opportunities to put their scientific and technical training to use in solving societal and global problems, according to Andrew Hafer, a student who helped organize the series.
"It is the purpose of this speaker series to introduce Caltech students to the idea of activism," Hafer says. "This can be accomplished through the introduction to the student body of people who have dedicated their lives to the improvement of human society."
Huerta, who is currently secretary-treasurer of the UFW, is one of the best-known women in the American civil rights labor movement. The mother of 11 children, and with 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren as well, Huerta has played many key roles in the movement to better the lives of farmworkers. She negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement for farmworkers, headed the national grape boycott, and directed the UFW's political and lobbying efforts.
Huerta has been arrested 22 times for disobeying injunctions. In 1988, she suffered a ruptured spleen and broken ribs at the hands of police while protesting President George Bush's opposition to the grape boycott.
Born in northern New Mexico, Huerta was raised in Stockton and spent her early adult years as a grade-school teacher. She later became a social activist because, in her words, "I couldn't stand seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more by organizing farmworkers than by trying to teach their hungry children."
She and Chavez organized the National Farm Workers Association in the early 1960s. The organization later joined the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to form the UFW.
In 1968, Sen. Robert Kennedy acknowledged the help of Huerta in winning the 1968 California Democratic Primary, moments before he was shot in Los Angeles.
More recently, she joined the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Eleanor Smeal in a 1996 bus tour through California to speak out against Proposition 209, and also led opposition to Proposition 187 in 1994. During the current congressional session, she has fought to restore welfare benefits to legal immigrants.
Huerta will be on campus all day. In addition to her public lecture, she will also meet privately with students, faculty, and staff, participate in classes, and hold a "nuts and bolts workshop" for Caltech students on activism.
Other Social Activism Speaker Series visitors scheduled for the school year are Adam Werbach, president of the Sierra Club, who will come to campus on January 14, 2000, and Jody Williams, Nobel Prize-winning coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, who will speak on April 21.
For more information, please contact Sue Borrego at the Caltech Y at (626) 395-6163, or Robert Tindol at Caltech Media Relations at (626) 395-3631.