Her Story: Addie Wyatt

Women's History Month: Addie Wyatt
Labor Leader, Civil Rights Leader, Women's Equality pioneer

Addie Wyatt was one of our country’s most notable labor union leaders, a pioneer in the civil rights movement, and an influential force in the women’s equality movement. 

Addie Wyatt was born into poverty in Mississippi, and moved to Chicago, Illinois with her family during the depression. She was the oldest of eight children, she took care of her younger siblings while her mother worked. Wyatt credits her mother for teaching her empathy and instilling a sense of responsibility to others. She married her high school sweetheart, and in 1941 went to work in a meatpacking plant and transform history.

Initially, Wyatt applied for a job as a typist for Armour and Company, but she was placed on the canning line because the company didn’t hire black people to work in the front office.  In the early 50’s She joined the United Packinghouse Workers of America and quickly became a forefront leader of black women within the unions. In 1953 Wyatt was elected Vice President of her branch, Local 53, the first black woman to hold senior office in an American labor union. By 1956, Wyatt was the Program Coordinator for District One of the UPWA. Wyatt’s contributions helped unions become more progressive, and helped redefine women’s roles within the labor movement.  

In the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Addie Wyatt was a leader and force to be reckoned with. Wyatt was ordained as a minister in 1955, she and her husband founded a church in Chicago. From 1956 to 1968, she joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in major civil rights marches, including the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and grassroots efforts in Chicago.

Rev. Wyatt’s work had a profound influence on Women’s Equality Rights Movement. Eleanor Roosevelt recognized her leadership abilities and appointed her to a position on the Labor Legislation Committee of the United States Commission on the Status of Women. In 1974, Rev. Wyatt was one of the founders of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), the country’s only national organization for union women. She is also a founding member of the National Organization of Women (NOW). 

In 1975, Time magazine named Rev. Wyatt one of its 12 women of the year and the first African-American woman to be so honored by the publication. In 1976, she became the International Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers, making her the first African-American woman to lead an international union.

Rev. Wyatt dedicated her life to protect and enhance the rights of women in and out of the workplace. She fought as a laborer, she fought as a black person, and she fought as a female. On the anniversary of her death, March 28th, we celebrate the life of this fighter.

Women's History Month: Addie Wyatt
Labor Leader, Civil Rights Leader, Women's Equality pioneer

Links To Learn:

Veteran Feminists of America Pioneer Histories: Rev. Addie Wyatts

About The Author


Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.

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