Elmhurst College presented the Niebuhr Medal to Marian Wright Edelman at a convocation in Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel on November 4, 1999. An attorney and the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, Edelman has devoted her career to advocating on behalf of disadvantaged Americans, especially children.
A graduate of Yale Law School, Edelman began her singular career in New York with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, then moved to Mississippi, where she became the first African-American woman to be admitted to the bar. She led Senator Robert F. Kennedy through a visit to parts of the Mississippi Delta where children were living with hunger, a fateful trip that helped awaken the nation’s conscience to what she called “a season of hope for the hungry.”
Under her leadership, the Children’s Defense Fund has become a forceful national voice for families, while Edelman herself has become “the most influential children’s advocate in the country” (the Washington Post).