Jovita Idar was an organizer, writer, and advocate of Mexican-American women's rights. In 1911, Idar and her family organized a conference in Laredo in support of unions, criminal justice, women's rights and bilingual education. She founded La Liga Femenil Mexicanista, whose first project was to provide free instruction for poor Mexican children. She wrote for La Cronica and El Progresso, Spanish language newspapers that condemned violence against Mexican-Americans of South Texas. In 1917, she moved to San Antonio where she started a free kindergarten and was active in the Democratic Party and the Methodist Church.
Written by Nancy Baker Jones
Read by Susan Castle
Jovita Idar grew up in Laredo, one of 8 children of parents who published La Crónica, a Spanish-language newspaper that exposed segregation, lynching, and other injustices endured by Mexican Texans in the early 20th Century. She trained to be a teacher, but frustration with her inability to improve her students’ poor conditions propelled her to write for the newspaper and try to effect social change.
In 1911, she and her family organized the Congreso Mexicanista, a convention to discuss racism, the need for teaching Spanish in schools, women’s rights, and protecting the lives and property of Tejanos. Women, some for the first time, participated publically as participants and speakers at this political gathering. One result was the creation of the League of Mexican Women, which was probably the first attempt in Mexican American history to form a feminist social movement. Jovita Idar was its first president and made its primary goal to provide education for poor children.
In 1913, during the Mexican Revolution, Idar traveled with revolutionary forces as a nurse. Later, when she wrote an editorial for the newspaper El Progresso protesting the presence of U.S. troops on the border, she stood in the newspaper’s doorway to stop Texas Rangers from shutting it down. They eventually did, however, and Idar returned to run La Crónicaafter her father’s death in 1914.
Jovita Idar established a free kindergarten in San Antonio, where she died in 1946.
Nancy Baker Jones, "IDAR, JOVITA," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fid03).
Teresa Palomo Acosta, "IDAR, NICASIO," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fid02).
Biography Source Information
Biographies are reprinted from the Foundation for Women’s Resources (now Women’s Resources), Dallas, Texas. They originally appeared in "From Gutsy Mavericks to Quiet Heroes: True Tales of Texas Women," video study guide, Austin: The Foundation for Women's Resources, 1997. Death dates have been added where needed.
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.