It’s Women’s History Month and what better way to celebrate then to learn about some awesome Latinas that have made an impact in the world. From politics to sports to education, there is no shortage of chicas that have made a name for themselves and have proven to be some world-class women. Here is a list of 10 Latinas who have made an impact!
Rosemary “Rosie” Casals is a former American professional tennis player. Rosie is a daughter to immigrants from El Salvador. Her parents, discovering that they could not care for her or her sister, gave them up and she lived with her uncle, Manuel Casals, who became her first and only tennis coach. Rosie was known as rebellious and entered tournaments against women two or three years older than her. She was determined to prove herself despite her shorter stature and different background compared to the wealthy White players commonly seen. Rosie was known for fighting for rights of tennis players and women players. She fought for an arrangement for amateur – poorer and nonpaid players – and professional players to play in the same tournament. And most notably, she fought for the right of women to have the same amount of prize money compare to their male counterparts. Rosie and a group of women boycotted tournaments and created an all-female tournament that gained a lot of media attention. Her endeavors helped pave the way for female tennis athletes.
Sylvia Mendez was 9 years old when her and her sibling were denied enrollment into their local elementary school because they were Mexican. Interestingly enough, her cousins were allowed enrollment because they were half-Mexican, therefore had lighter skin and a French surname that allowed them admission into the “white school.” Mendez’s parents were appalled and filed suit against the school district, bringing forth one of the most groundbreaking cases in Civil Rights. The Mendez vs. Westminster outlawed segregation in California schools and is set as precedent for other cases, such as Brown v. Board of Education. Sylvia Mendez was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Obama and has received several Lifetime Achievement awards and Certificates of Recognition for her role in advocating education.
Rosario Dawson and Maria Theresa Kumar
Rosario Dawson and Maria Theresa Kumar are founders of the organization Voto Latino. Voto Latino is a nonpartisan organization that encourages Latinos to vote in elections. The organization targets Latino Millennials and hopes to encourage them to take advantage and claim a better future for themselves and their community. Voto Latino’s goal is produce a positive change by engaging youth to be more proactive. This organization has received recognition for their endeavors toward Latinos.
Mari-Luci Jaramillo was a pioneer in Bilingual Education. She emphasized collaborative learning, whole language, bilingual/bicultural education, and taught children identity and a self-love for learning. She taught elementary school during the day and attended Masters program at night, as education is an important aspect through out her life. Her classroom, at one of the poorest schools in Albuquerque, became a demonstration site for people across the country. Jaramillo was known as a “master teacher.” In 1977, President Carter appointed her U.S Ambassador of Honduras and became the first Latina ambassador.
The Mirabal Sister were four Dominican sisters – Patria, Dede, Minerva, and Maria Theresa – who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Minerva was the first of the sisters to become active in the overthrow of the dictator and eventually the rest of the sisters joined the efforts. They created a group called The Movement of the Fourteenth of June, which distributed pamphlets detailing of Trujillo’s horrendous actions and acquired bombs and guns for their impending revolt. They were called La Mariposas (The Butterflies). The sisters and their husbands faced multiple incarcerations but it did not discourage their efforts. They continued to oppose Trujillo until he became deeply troubled by their actions causing him to order an assassination. On November 25, 1960, Trujillo’s henchmen killed Patria, Minerva, and Maria– leaving Dede as the last remaining Mirabal sister. On December 17, 1999 the United Nations General Assembly appointed November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in honor of the sisters.
Adelfa Botello Callejo
Adelfa Botello Callejo is a former Dallas layer and civil rights leader. Callejo was the first Latina to graduate from law school at Southern Methodist University and was one of three women in her graduating class. After law school, this aspiring lawyer had to create her own private practice because she would only be hired as a legal secretary. Her actions included the protest against the fatal police shooting of a Mexican-American 12-year-old boy in 1973, protests against the deportation of immigrants, fighting for City Council redistricting, and frequent encounters with the Dallas school districts to push for better bilingual education. Callejo was sometimes called La Madrina (“The Godmother”).
Aida Alvarez is the first Latina in a United States Cabinet-level position. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, in 1997, Alvarez was appointed as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. Coming from humble roots, after leaving Puerto Rico, Alvarez attended high school in New York and participated in a program called “ASPIRA.” This program’s goal was to help disadvantage youth and instilled leadership skills and helped them in their endeavors to attend college. From a journalist at the New York Post, to TV news anchor for Metromedia Television, to venturing out into the banking business, Alvarez worked her way up in her career.
Dolores Huerta is well known for co-founding the National Farmworkers Association with Cesar Chavez. The organization is one of the largest and most successful farm workers unions and is currently active in ten states. This labor leader and civil rights activist has been incarcerated approximately twenty-two times for her non-violent civil disobedience, as well as been beaten by Sand Francisco police publicly in 1988 for a peaceful and lawful protest. Huerta has received many awards for her advocacy for women’s rights, worker’s rights, and immigrant’s rights, such as the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Rita Moreno hit the big screen in 1961 when she played the role of Anita in Westside Story. While she had smaller roles prior to this musical, this role is what gave her much recognition. Moreno is one of the few performers, and only Hispanic, to be awarded all four annual major American entertainment awards: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and the Tony award. Moreno is, also, the second Puerto Rican to receive an Oscar. This actress made a name in the entertainment business and paved the way for later Latina actresses.
Sonia Maria Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor was the first justice of Hispanic heritage, as well as one of the youngest. Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and earned her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. She is advocate for hiring more Latino faculty at both school, Princeton and Yale. After working as an assistant district attoenty and eneterning private practice, in 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. She served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998–2009. President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role August 8, 2009