Historians are trying to identify suffragists of all races. Latinas, Native Americans, Asians, African-Americans, and others haven’t gotten much attention until recently but they exist. It’s time to add them to the history books not to change history, but to make the narrative deeper and richer by understanding events from many perspectives.
Suffragists of all colors, nationalities, and religions exist. They are in archives, historical societies, local libraries, basements, and attics, but they are not database searchable when they stay like that. This is where the general public can help with transcribe-a-thons and suffrage scavenger hunts organized by many types of organizations. It’s easiest to find female journalists because there is clear documentation through newspapers but original sources can be personal letters, diaries, family records and photos, and more.
One reasonably well-documented Mexican-American suffragist is Jovita Idar of Texas. Born in 1885, Idar was a teacher and journalist. She and her brothers worked for their father's Spanish language newspaper “La Crónica” published in Laredo, Texas. Like many women writers, Idar chose to use a pen name. Under the pen names of A.V. Negra or Ave Negra (Black bird) and Astrea (Greek goddess of justice), she wrote articles about women’s rights, suffrage, and education including the need for hispanic children to attend bilingual schools in order to retain their culture and heritage. Like Ida B. Wells (Episode 39), Jovita Idar had her printing office destroyed for writing about lynching and racism.
When the “Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo” in 1848 ended the Mexican-American war, America gained an additional 525,000 square miles of Mexican territory including parts of present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. The border between Mexico and America moved many miles south to its current location of the Rio Grande River. The citizenship of the people living in those areas changed from Mexican to American when the border changed. Officially, American citizens of Mexican descent were considered “white by law” but unofficially, “Juan Crow” laws became ever more common. There was discrimination and violence against American-born citizens of Mexican heritage. 20% of the recorded lynchings of Mexcian-Americans happened between 1910-1920. In 1911, Idar and her family used their newspaper to help promote El Primer Congreso Mexicanista (the First Mexican Congress) which focused on fair and equal treatment for Americans of Mexican descent in Texas.
At the 1911 Mexican Congress, Idar and other women formed the Liga Femenil Mexicanista (the League of Mexican Women). Idar was the first president. It was as much of a charity organization as a political one.The Liga not only worked for bilingual schools but they had study classes for adult women and encouraged women to be financially independent. Similar to how Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin (Episode 45) paved the way for African-American civil rights, Idar paved the way for the Chicano civil rights movements.
Jovita Idar is not alone. Here are some other Latina suffragists from Puerto Rico, California, New Mexico, Texas/Mexico, and Cuba with links to more information.
Isabel Andreu de Aguilar
Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez Lowther
https://documents.alexanderstreet.com/d/1010111769 and https://pasadenalatina.blogspot.com/2014_03_01_archive.html
Adelina “Nina” Otero Warren
Andrea and Teresa Villarreal
This week’s song pick:
“You Tell Me That I’m Falling Down” sung by Linda Ronstadt, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and Maria Muldaur https://youtu.be/i26E_5m4Tt8
Episode 55 Sources:
Additional reading article found in “Teen Vogue”