Dolores Huerta was born in New Mexico in 1930. Her parents divorced when she was young, and she and her four siblings were raised by her mother and grandfather in Stockton, California. Huerta's mother ran a restaurant and then a hotel, when Huerta worked as a child. Her father was a day laborer and coal miner who later became a state legislator.
After high school, Huerta married and had two children. She also became a schoolteacher. Neither the marriage nor the career lasted (Huerta later married and divorced again, and had five more children). In 1955, Huerta became a founding member of the Sacramento chapter of the Community Service Organization. Recognizing the needs of farm workers through both her work as a teacher and her work in the CSO, in 1960 Huerta co-founded the Agricultural Workers Association. In 1962, she worked with Cesar Chávez to found the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee and finally the UFW.
In 1968 and 1969, Huerta helped to coordinate the UFW's national table grape boycott. The boycott was successful, resulting in the entire California grape industry signing a three-year collective bargaining contract. Among other things, this contract secured the first medical and pension benefits on record for farm workers. Huerta was also instrumental in the passage of California legislation granting the right to vote in Spanish.
Huerta's entire adult life has been full of agitating and organizing on behalf of farm workers and other low-income workers, particularly Latinos. She has been arrested twenty-two times in peaceful protests. She currently sits on the boards of both People for the American Way and the Feminist Majority Foundation.