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Hartford Changemakers

Black, Latine, and Indigenous leaders in Hartford History

Mendes Blake, Isabel

Hartford Times photograph by Ellery G. Kington (October 15, 1971)

Isabel Mendes Blake (1929-1992)
Welfare Rights, Education, and Legal Aid Activist

Isabel Mendes Blake was a Hartford-born activist fighting for welfare rights, education, and legal aid for communities in need for more than 30 years. She was described by friends and family as "stubborn, politically astute and kindhearted." Mrs. Blake, an Irving Street resident and welfare mother of 11, believed that state assistance was a right, not a privilege. In 1971, Mrs. Blake led thousands in a two week demonstration at the Capitol to protest welfare cuts. This included building a tent city on the Bushnell Park grounds right outside of the Capitol building. In the 1970s, Mrs. Blake was director of Welfare Outreach, a federally funded program, served on school committees, formed PTAs, and founded a statewide organization known as Welfare Mothers' Rights. She also worked as a resource counselor for the Upper Albany Community Organization and garnered several community service awards. Mrs. Blake ran Mayor Carrie Saxon-Perry's campaign headquarters. The Blake family created a scholarship at Hartford Public High School in her name. With a full, active and inspiring life, many of her children became educators and community leaders in their own right.

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