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Dorothy Height’s hats included in the NCNW “Messages of Our Mother” exhibition. (Photo by Linda Poulson )

The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) recently held a celebration in homage to their chair and president emeriti, Dorothy Height.

The event commemorated the organization’s 80th birthday and showcased the stylish hats Dorothy Irene Height wore as she advocated for equality and human rights for all people.

The hat exhibition, called “Messages of Our Mother,” included more than 50 hats from Height’s collection of 250 hats at the Washington, D.C. Hilton in Northwest on Nov. 13. Height served as president of the organization for 40 years (1957-1997).

“This is the first time we are displaying her hats; they are part of her estate. I thought it was appropriate for the 80th anniversary of the NCNW to salute the council with the hats of Dorothy Height,” said Alexis Herman, president of the Dorothy I. Height Education Foundation and cochair of the Uncommon Height Gala. She was also the former secretary of labor in the Clinton administration.

“So we have hats representing eight decades, and each decade has a special theme, so we have historical hats; the first hat she wore with Mary McLeod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt, the hat she wore to Barack Obama’s inauguration . . . we have hats that are representative of organizational partnerships, like Delta Sigma Theta, her famous red hats.” Height was a member of the Deltas and the national president from 1946 to 1957.

“We call them her crowns, Queen Dorothy, because she loved to wear the halos, especially in the evening,” Herman said. She said that some of the hats are in the Smithsonian’s inventory and will be part of the African American Historical Museum when it opens next year.

In addition to the hat celebration, the organization held its 14th annual Uncommon Gala Awards on Nov. 13. Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds received the organizations Crystal Stair award, sharing the honor with Sidney Poitier, Vernon Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and others.

“Dorothy Height had a great relationship with Babyface, “ Herman said. “She supported his fundraising efforts for the Little Blue House in Washington, D.C., and the border babies initiative he championed.”

“The Crystal Stair Award is taken from Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son” and purses together those qualities of Dorothy Irene Height’s service to others and service to community,” said Daley. “Babyface has given that service many people may not know, but he’s given a lot of service to the community.”