Dolores Clara Fernandez was born on April 10, 1930 in Dawson, a small mining town in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Her father Juan Fernández, a farm worker and miner by trade, was a union activist who ran for political office and won a seat in the New Mexico legislature in 1938. Dolores spent most of her childhood and early adult life in Stockton, California where she and her two brothers moved with their mother, following her parents’ divorce.
According to Dolores, her mother’s independence and entrepreneurial spirit were one of the primary reasons she became a feminist. Dolores’ mother Alicia was known for her kindness and compassion towards others. She offered rooms at affordable rates in her 70-room hotel, which she acquired after years of hard work. Alicia welcomed low-wage workers in the hotel, and often, waived the fee for them altogether. She was an active participant in community affairs, and involved in numerous civic organizations and the church. Alicia encouraged the cultural diversity that was a natural part of Dolores’ upbringing in Stockton. The agricultural community where they lived was made up of Mexican, Filipino, African-American, Japanese and Chinese working families.
Alicia’s community activism influenced Dolores’ involvement as a student at Stockton High School. She was active in numerous school clubs, was a majorette, and a dedicated member of the Girl Scouts until the age of 18. Upon graduating, Dolores continued her education at the University of Pacific’s Delta College in Stockton earning a provisional teaching credential. During this time, she married Ralph Head and had two daughters, Celeste and Lori. While teaching, she could no longer bear to see her students come to school with empty stomachs and bare feet, and thus began her lifelong journey of working to correct economic injustice.