MacArthur Fellows Program

Marian Wright Edelman

Children's Rights Leader | Class of 1985

Children's Rights Leader
Washington, District of Columbia
46 at time of award
Published July 1, 1985

About Marian's Work

Marian Wright Edelman is an advocate for children’s rights.

She is founder and chief executive officer of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), whose mission is to serve as an effective voice nationwide in the areas of child health, child care, education, youth employment, adolescent pregnancy prevention, child welfare and mental health, and family support systems.  Under Edelman’s direction, the CDF has combined research, policy analysis, and advocacy for all children, but particularly for disadvantaged children and their families.  CDF’s work has been influential in Congress, state legislatures, and the courts. Her many books include Children Out of School in America (1974), Portrait of Inequality: Black and White Children in America (1980), Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change (1987), The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours (1992), Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors (1999), and Guide My Feet: Prayers and Meditations for Our Children (2000).


The first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi State Bar (1963), Edelman directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in Jackson, Mississippi (1964-68).  She founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973.

Edelman received a B.A. (1960) from Spelman College and an LL.B. (1963) from Yale University’s Law School.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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