From 1955 to 1975, Vera Pigee (1924–2007) put her life and livelihood on the line with grassroots efforts for social change in Mississippi, principally through her years of leadership in Coahoma County’s NAACP. Known as the "Lady of Hats," coined by NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins, Pigee was a businesswoman, mother, and leader. Her book, The Struggle of Struggles, offers a detailed view of the daily grind of organizing for years to open the state’s closed society. Fearless, forthright, and fashionable, Pigee also suffered for her efforts at the hands of white supremacists and those unwilling to accept strong women in leadership. She wrote herself into the histories, confronted misinformation, and self-published one of the first autobiographies from the era. Women like her worked, often without accolade or recognition, in their communities all over the country, but did not document their efforts in this way.
The Struggle of Struggles, originally published in 1975, spotlights the gendered and generational tensions within the civil rights movement. It outlines the complexity, frustrations, and snubs, as well as the joy and triumphs that Pigee experienced and witnessed in the quest for a fairer and more equitable nation. This new edition (published by University Press of Mississippi) begins with a detailed introductory essay by historian Françoise N. Hamlin, who interviewed Pigee and her daughter in the few years preceding their passing, as well as their coworkers and current activists. In addition to the insightful Introduction, Hamlin has also provided annotations to the original text for clarity and explanation, along with a timeline to guide a new generation of readers.