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This Saturday on March 17th, the life of Dorthy Height will be celebrated for her birthday.

Dorothy Height was born March 24, 1912in Richmond Virginia. She was an American administrator, educator, and social activist. She was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

When Dorothy was small, the family moved north to Rankin, Pa., near Pittsburgh, where she attended integrated public schools. She began her civil rights work as a teenager, volunteering on voting rights and anti-lynching campaigns.

She was admitted to Barnard College in 1929, but upon arrival, she was denied entrance because the school had an unwritten policy of admitting only two black students per year She pursued studies instead at New York University, earning a degree in 1932, and a master’s degree in educational psychology the following year.

Height started working as a caseworker with the New York City Welfare Department and, at the age of twenty-five, she began a career as a civil rights activist when she joined the National Council of Negro Women. She fought for equal rights for both African Americans and women, and in 1944 she joined the national staff of the YWCA. She also served as National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority from 1946 to 1957.

Ms. Height was accorded a place of honor on the dais on Jan. 20, 2009, when Mr. Obama took the oath of office as the nation’s 44th president. In a statement on Tuesday, he called Ms. Height “the godmother of the civil rights movement and a hero to so many Americans.”

Ms. Height received three dozen honorary doctorates, from institutions including Tuskegee, Harvard and Princeton Universities. But there was one academic honor — the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree — that resonated more strongly than all the rest: In 2004, 75 years after turning her away, Barnard College designated Ms. Height an honorary graduate.

On April 20, 2010, Height died at the age of ninety-eight. Her funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on April 29, 2010 was attended by President and Mrs. Obama plus many dignitaries and notable people. She was later interred at Fort Lincoln Cemetery.