Written by Teresa Palomo Acosta
Read by Khotan Shahbazi-Harmon
Even before the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that separate was not equal, Tejanas—especially members of the American G.I. Forum Women’s Auxiliary—lobbied for equal civil rights. An early victory, the 1948 lawsuit Delgado v. Del Rio prohibited public schools from segregating Mexican American students. Tejanas also organized a grassroots campaign to treat with dignity the remains of Felix Longoria, a World War II soldier whose body had been refused burial in his hometown of Three Rivers. He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in 1949.
In 1954, Hernandez v. Texas ruled that Mexican Americans had been victims of Jim Crow laws. Yet another case found in 1957 that the Driscoll schools had segregated Tejano elementary children.
Tejanas also worked to increase voting. Ladies LULAC Council 9 in El Paso rallied their fellow citizens to pay their poll taxes, collecting over 4,300 receipts. This campaign contributed to the election of Raymond Telles as mayor in 1957.
In 1960, to elect a Democratic President, Manuela Contreras González, a friend of Lyndon Johnson’s, and Dr. Clotilde García campaigned through Viva Kennedy clubs to elect John F. Kennedy. These clubs led to the creation of a group called PASSO, which fought to pay farm workers minimum wage. In 1963, they voted out the Anglo political machine in Crystal City, winning all 5 council seats. This marked the beginning of the Chicano movement in Texas.
Acosta, Teresa Palomo and Ruthe Winegarten. Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.
Audio Source Information
Our project, "Texas Women's History Moments," received the 2012 National Council on Public History Outstanding Public History Award and the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award. The audio clips were broadcast on KUT radio from 2011-2016 during Women’s History Month.