Marian Wright was born in South Carolina in 1939. When she was 14, her father died of a heart attack, urging in his last words, “Don’t let anything get in the way of your education.”

Studying at Spelman College in Atlanta, she was awarded a scholarship to travel and study abroad, studying at the Sorbonne University, the University of Geneva and in the Soviet Union. When she returned for her senior year, she became involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

After graduating, she went on to study law at Yale Law School. Marian became the first African American woman to pass the bar in Mississippi and in her private practice, she took on civil rights and funding cases.

In 1973 she founded and became president of the Children’s Defense Fund ( as a voice for poor children, children of colour, and children with disabilities. The CDF became a highly effective organisation in advocating children’s rights – persuading US Congress to overhaul foster care, support adoption, improve child care and protect children who are disabled, homeless, abused or neglected.

Marian continues to advocate for children’s rights, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the country’s highest civilian award) and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings.

“As adults, we are responsible for meeting the needs of children. It is our moral obligation. We brought about their births and their lives, and they cannot fend for themselves.”