Labor organizer, ‘genius’ grant winner to be Smith College’s 2019 commencement speaker

  • Domestic worker labor organizer Ai-Jen Poo, who will be the 2019 commencement speaker at Smith College. SUBMITTED PHOTO/8 Salamander Productions/Simon Luethi

Staff Writer
Published: 2/25/2019 1:59:51 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Smith College has announced that a prominent labor organizer for domestic workers’ rights will give the school’s commencement speech this year.

Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-director of Caring Across Generations, will speak at Smith’s graduation ceremony on May 19. The winner of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2014, Poo helped lead efforts in New York to pass the 2010 Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which extended important labor protections to the state’s 200,000 domestic workers.

“I represent a growing workforce of women who do the work that makes all other work possible: caring for children, seniors and taking care of homes, the most precious elements of our lives,” Poo said in a video announcing her MacArthur grant win.

In 2011, Poo helped create Caring Across Generations, which seeks to ensure families can afford quality care for their aging loved ones and that those doing that work have justice in their workplaces.

Smith will be granting Poo and four others honorary degrees at this year’s commencement: local advocate for the homeless Yvonne Freccero; poet, Elizabeth Alexander, an educator and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; historian and former Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faust; and former U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, a member of Smith’s Class of ’68 who represented the state’s 3rd Congressional District from 2013 until this year.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

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