By Isabella Deza, Alliance Intern from George Mason University
Long before it was considered acceptable for a woman, much less a Mexican American woman, to speak up, Jovita Idar courageously addressed inequity, fundamental rights and the need for children and women to be educated. She lived out her beliefs and fought for the rights of Mexican Americans, paving the way for women and their rights.
Jovita Idar was born in Laredo, Texas in 1885, 40 years after Texas became a state. She was a teacher, an American journalist, a political activist, civil rights worker, and a nurse on the front lines of the Mexican War for Independence. She fought for Mexican-American rights and became the founder of the League of Mexican Women. She and her family also helped organize the first Mexican American civil rights conference in 1911.
After becoming a teacher and seeing there was a lack of support and resources, she began her career of human and civil rights activism through journalism. Idar wrote for various Spanish-language newspapers, focusing on racism, segregation, poverty, being bilingual, anti-Mexican hate, women, and access to democratic institutions.
Idar used her voice to encourage women to be more politically involved within the American system. Latina journalists in the US are carrying on her tradition of making a difference through their distinctive approach to journalism, but their numbers in America’s newsrooms are still relatively small. They are just “Over 2% in newspapers, about 4% in radio, and about 8% in television news,” says Maria Hinojosa, the founder of Futurn Media.
Hispanic Heritage Month encourages us to look at our past to recognize that we stand on the shoulders of leaders like Jovita Idar. Hopefully, her pioneering spirit can inspire all of us to bring about the fundamental changes she championed.