You can’t celebrate Women’s History Month without celebrating the advocacy and general badassery demonstrated by Latinas.
Latinas have been fighting for social, racial and reproductive justice right in our very own backyard for decades ― even centuries. It’s about time we recognized their contributions to our nation, and gave them the props they deserve.
So in honor of Women’s History Month, here are 9 Latinas (to name only a few) who’ve changed the ways in which we all view our bodies, sex, race and the world.
We invite you to shoutout any Latinas who you feel deserve recognition this Women’s History Month and beyond in the comments section below.
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Dolores Huerta started advocating for women’s rights following a brutal attack sustained during a peaceful and lawful protest of the policies of then Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988
. For two years, the award-winning civil rights activist and labor leader toured the country on behalf of the Feminist Majority’s Feminization of Power: 50/50 by the year 2000 Campaign. In 2002, Huerta founded the aptly named Dolores Huerta Foundation
, an organization that offers members programs such as the “Weaves Movements Together,” an initiative dedicated to raising awareness of women’s rights and gay rights, as well as immigrant rights and labor rights.
Schools were still segregated in Santa Ana, California, when Sylvia Mendez and her family came to town in the 1940s. When Mendez and her brothers were denied access to an all-white elementary school, her parents filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles against the school district. On February 18, 1946, Judge Paul J. McCormick ruled in favor of Mendez, making her one of the first Hispanics to attend an all-white school. Mendez’s case ended de jure
segregation in California, setting a precedent for Brown vs. Board of Education
seven years later, which brought an end to school segregation in the entire country.
We can, in part, thank Vilma Socorro Martinez for affirmative action
. Martinez served as the attorney for the petitioner in the case of Griggs v. Duke Power Company
, a landmark case that ultimately went before the U.S. Supreme Court, where it became the catalyst for the doctrine of affirmative action. The Griggs case brought to the court’s attention that even if a company hired candidates solely on the basis of their training -- and it could be proven that minorities had in the past faced obstacles to receiving such training -- then the training requirements for the job were discriminatory. Partly in response to the Griggs case, the federal government mandated a nationwide policy of affirmative action in 1972.
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United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has sworn to protect and uphold the law for all United States citizens, not just Latinos. In her career so far, Sotomayor has rendered rulings in cases involving everything from Miranda rights violations to the protection of freedom of speech. In July 2014
, she voted against an injunction that would allow Wheaton College, a nonprofit liberal arts college in Illinois, some exemption from complying with Affordable Care Act’s
mandate on contraception.
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During her tenure as United States Surgeon General under then- President George H.W. Bush, Antonia Novello worked tirelessly to educate parents about the benefits of early childhood immunizations, advocate for policies prohibiting family planning program workers who received federal money from discussing abortion with their patients, and took R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to task for using cartoons such as Joe Camel to appeal to younger consumers. Joe Camel
was retired in 1997 after a nine-year battle with several U.S. Surgeons General (including Novello), the American Medical Association, Congress and various public interest groups.
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Co-founded by Rosario Dawson and led by CEO and founding president Maria Teresa Kumar, Voto Latino
was launched with all millennials in mind. According to the non-partisan organization’s website, Voto Latino was founded on “the belief that Latino issues are American issues and American issues are Latino issues,” and “is dedicated to bringing new and diverse voices to develop leaders by engaging youth, media, technology and celebrities to promote positive change.”
The Third-Wave feminist movement of the '90s focused largely on women’s intersecting and overlapping identities. It was greatly impacted by the discourse catalyzed by the works produced by feminists of color, including Chicana scholar Gloria Anzaldúa and Chicana writer and activist Cherríe Moraga.
In 1981, they co-edited the feminist classic, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color,
challenging feminists to acknowledge the roles race, sexual orientation and class played in the oppression of women. Anzaldúa’s most famous work, Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza,
published in 1987, encouraged readers to challenge gender, racial and sexual binaries, and embrace ambiguities that come with their overlapping and intersecting identities.
A version of this post originally appeared on Chica.io.