A lucid, easily read biography of the influential founder and director of the Children's Defense Fund, whose research and influence on national legislation is virtually synonymous with her life work. Born in South Carolina in 1939, this daughter of a Baptist minister was raised ""hard-working and socially conscious,"" with social service her expected goal; after graduating from Yale Law School she returned to the South as a civil-rights worker in Mississippi but soon focused her attention on the needs of poor children, successfully intervening when the state refused to apply for Head Start funds. After moving to Washington, D.C., in 1968 and marrying RFK staffer Peter Edelman, she started the Washington Research Project as ""a voice for America's poor people and to see that laws to protect them were enforced""; in 1973, the organization became the CDF, whose vigorous lobbying is grounded in extensive research. In simple, but never simplistic, style, Otfinoski surveys the organization's achievements, giving it--and Edelman--credit for whatever legislation has passed (or been defeated) in this crucial area in the last 20 years and also outlining areas of concern: teenage pregnancy, hunger, education. A liberal number of photos--places, people, events--help set the stage and bring the people to life. Adulatory but not overly so; a fine portrait of a ""vibrant, optimistic"" woman, an inspiring and productive contemporary hero.