​​​​​​​Soledad “Lala” Chávez Chacón (1890-1936) didn’t seek to become the first Hispanic woman in the nation to win a statewide office, let alone be one of the first female governors. According to her daughter Adelina Chacón Ward, Lala was in the kitchen baking a cake when a couple of male relatives came to the house and asked her to come to the Democratic party's state convention right away. A well educated woman from a middle-class but prominent Latinx family, Lala Chávez Chacón was active in community service and had worked alongside Nina Oterro Warren (WCW 69) during the fight for women’s suffrage. At the convention, Chacón was nominated for New Mexico secretary of state and won the office as Democrats swept the election in 1923. (Democrats were the conservative party at this time.)

While serving her two year term as secretary of state, the Governor died in office. The Lieutenant Governor took his place. When the Lt. Governor had to go to New York for the Democratic Convention, Chacón took his place as acting governor which has all the duties and responsibilities of an elected one. Even though it was only for two weeks, Chacón took the office seriously and was lauded for her abilities and leadership. When the Lt. Governor returned, she resumed her post as secretary of state. In 1924, she again won the New Mexico secretary of state office. That same year two other women, Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming and Miriam Amanda Ferguson of Texas, became the first elected women governors in the United States. (In 1909, Carolyn B. Shelton, private secretary to Oregon Governor George Earle Chamberlain, was the first woman to be temporary governor. It was for one weekend while her boss was unable to make it back to Oregon due to illness, but she had no actual duties. It was common for governors to leave personal secretaries in charge in cases like this but the previous secretaries had all been men.) 

In 1934 Chacón became the first woman elected as a representative to New Mexico’s state congress. She was in her second year of office when she died of peritonitis (inflammation of the stomach lining). She was a week short of her 46th birthday.

In 1919, during the fight for ratification of the 19th Amendment, Chacón and Ottero-Warren led groups of women who pressured and shamed male legislatures into voting in favor of ratification. One of the ways was using protest songs such as  “El Corrido de la Votación” (“The Ballad of the Vote”). It has the traditional melancholic sound of a traditional folk ballad but with satirical lyrics rather than sad ones.  


Full background, audio recording, and analysis of “El Corrido de la Votación” (“The Ballad of the Vote”: https://folklife.si.edu/magazine/new-mexico-suffrage-movement-corrido-de-la-votacion

For more about New Mexico’s Latina suffragists:
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