Kartar Dhillon was an activist for unions and farm workers. Born in 1915 in Simi Valley, California, her parents were one of the first Indian families in the United States. Her father immigrated in 1897 and her mother in 1910.
Kartar Dhillon grew up around activism. Her parents were founding members of the Ghadar Party, an international, multi-ethnic organization of South Asians dedicated to Indian Independence. During World War 2, she was a machinist and a truck driver for the Marine Corps. She also worked as a secretary for the San Francisco Teamsters and Asbestos Workers. Dhillon supported farm worker organizing and the Black Panthers. She convinced the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to support striking Pakistani merchant marines in San Francisco.
She retired in 1983. In 1989, she wrote “A Parrot’s Beak,” an autobiographical reflection on her early life as an Indian American woman. This was published in the collection Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings By and About Asian American Women. You can read “The Parrot’s Beak” here: https://www.saada.org/tides/article/the-parrots-beak