Endesha Ida Mae Holland founded and directed the Lorraine Hansberry Writers Workshop. She was the founder and executive director of Women Helping Offenders and the chairwoman of the National Association of the organization.
Holland was born in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1944, during the pre-Civil Rights era. Her childhood was plagued with racism, rape, and prostitution. Her first time in jail was as a teenager having dropped out of school and turned towards a life of prostitution and theft. She was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail – but this wouldn’t be the last time. She also spent time in prison after receiving charges for assault and battery, after having married, giving birth, and discovering her husband cheating. When she was released from prison, her options were narrow and she returned to “streetwalking” – the only life she knew.
When Civil Rights workers arrived in Greenwood, it was the first time she witnessed women in positive jobs. It was during this time, she decided to devote her energy to the civil rights. By the age of 19, Holland had been jailed thirteen times.
After completing her primary education, Holland attended the University of Minnesota where after thirteen years, she received a B.A. in African American Studies, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in American Studies. She later traveled the country speaking out against the atrocities she had seen and experienced. She added “Endesha” (meaning Driver) to her name just prior to receiving her doctorate.
She also worked as a playwright, actress, activist, lecturer, and teacher. Some of her written works include Second Doctor Lady (1980), The Reconstruction of Dossie Ree Hemphill (1980), Requiem for a Snake (1980), Mrs. Ida B. Wells (1982), From Mississippi Delta (1984), and Prairie Women (1984).
Holland received the First Annual Playwriting Award, the ACTF Student Playwriting Award of the University of Minnesota, and the Second Place Lorraine Hansberry Award.