The Suffragists’ Rainbow
Did you know? Laredo feminist Jovita Idár stood down the Texas Rangers when they tried to close her newspaper?
The Rangers attempted to shut down El Progreso after Idár wrote an article critical of Woodrow Wilson’s decision to send U.S. troops to the border during the Mexican Revolution. She stood at the front door and refused entry. They left but returned later and shuttered the newspaper.
Jovita Idár (1885-1946) was born in Laredo. La Crónica, a newspaper published by her father, was a progressive voice in the Mexican Revolution and a champion of the rights of Hispanic Americans, who were often victims of segregation and violence in the United States. Idár went to Mexico to care for the injured during the Mexican Revolution, and she worked for El Progreso after returning to Laredo. Idár returned to La Crónica after El Progreso was shut down, and she took over publication of the newspaper after her father’s death in 1914.
Idár supported progressive causes on both sides of the border and advocated for women’s suffrage. She founded La Liga Feminil Mexicaista (The League of Mexican Women) and was its first president. Idár eventually married and moved to San Antonio, where she became active in the Democratic party and continued her support for equal rights for women.
Sara Estela Ramirez (1881-1910) was called "La Musa Texana" by Jovita Idár. Ramirez was a journalist and poet who arrived in Laredo from Mexico in 1898 at the age of 17. She published poetry and essays in La Crónica and other Spanish-language newspapers, and she later published two newspapers herself, La Corregidora and Aurora. She worked with the feminist organization Regeneración y Concordia, and she is considered one of the founders of Mexican feminism.
Teresa Villareal (1883-?) also used her talents as a journalist to advocate for women’s rights. She and her family fled Mexico and settled in San Antonio to escape repression under the government of Porfirio Díaz at the beginning of the 20th century. Teresa founded El Obrero, a socialist newspaper, and she and her sister Andrea began publishing La Mujer Moderna, a newspaper aimed at promoting women’s rights, in 1910. Texas was the first southern state to ratify the 19th Amendment—on June 28th, 1919.
In New Mexico, Hispanic families were half the population, and they had more political and economic power than in other Southwestern states. There, suffragists from politically connected families became respected members of the U.S. suffragist movement. New Mexico was an exception to the usual focus on the state-by-state strategy in the western states. Suffragists in New Mexico worked for a constitutional amendment in alliance with Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party (NWP).
In October 1915, 150 Anglo and Hispanic women paraded through the streets of Santa Fe for the cause of women’s suffrage. In their defense of the Spanish language, land rights, and the Catholic religion, suffragists in New Mexico insisted on being included as equals in the movement (though it should be noted that Native American peoples in New Mexico were not included). The New Mexico Legislature ratified the 19th Amendment in February 2020.
Adelina Otero-Warren was the first female superintendent of the Santa Fe schools. She served as Vice Chair and then Chair of the newly formed New Mexico Chapter of the NWP. Lola Armijo, the first female in the New Mexico government, was appointed state librarian in 1912. After passage of the 19th Amendment, both Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico nominated women for office. A Democrat, Soledad Chávez de Chacón, became Secretary of State of New Mexico in 1922, becoming the first woman in the nation to serve in that office. The current governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, is the first Latina Democrat to be elected governor in the U.S.
In California, Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez (1881-1977) was the youngest and first Latina teacher at UCLA. She served as president of the UCLA Women’s Faculty Club and was active in the Votes for Women Club. Lopez is notable for translating suffragist documents into Spanish, especially during the 1911 California suffrage campaign. At the Votes for Women Club’s rally that year, she gave her entire speech in Spanish, which was unheard of at the time. California’s Proposition 4, which passed in October 1911, made California the sixth state to give women the right to vote. Lopez went on to become president of the College Equal Suffrage League.
Latinas—from Texas to New Mexico to California—though often overlooked, made substantial contributions to the suffrage movement in the United States.
“When you educate a woman, you educate a family.” Jovita Idár