Nina Otero-Warren – Latin champion for suffrage and women’s education in New Mexico – will soon be in the United States

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(THE CONVERSATION) Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren was an activist who fought for women’s suffrage in the 20th century. She was the first Latina to run for Congress and the first Latina Superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools. She is one of many women whose images are featured on the American Quarter in 2022. The quarter in her honor is expected published August 15, 2022. Here, Anna María Nogar, professor of Southwestern Hispanic Studies at the University of New Mexico, writes about the work and legacy of Otero-Warren.


1. How has Otero-Warren contributed to women’s political rights?

Otero-Warren advocated tirelessly in Spanish and English for New Mexico to ratify the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. For a constitutional amendment to become effective, it must be ratified by three-fourths of all states.

In New Mexico, Otero-Warren implemented strategies advanced by the Congressional Union, a national organization formed in 1913 to defend women’s suffrage. She lobbied heads of state to vote in favor of ratification. Since the first language of the vast majority of New Mexicans was Spanish, her bilingualism helped her work with opinion leaders in all communities to keep suffrage and women’s rights at the forefront.

She was joined in her fight for women’s rights by her fellow nuevomexicanas – as Otero-Warren and her colleagues called themselves – Soledad Chávez Chacón and folklorist Aurora Lucero. Together, these women worked to pave the way for future female leadership in the state. In 1922, for example, Chacón became the nation’s first Latina to be elected to a statewide position, as New Mexico’s secretary of state.

In the early 1920s, Otero-Warren served as president of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs. As president, she worked toward progressive goals. Part of his job was to persuade lawmakers to raise the age of consent from 16 to 18. She also worked to advance legislation providing for the care of dependent and neglected children.

In 1921, women were guaranteed the right to run for office in New Mexico through the passage of an amendment to the state constitution. In 1922, Otero-Warren became the nation’s first Latina to contest for a seat in Congress, as a Republican. Despite losing to Democrat James Hinkle by 9 percentage points, his ability to speak directly to nuevomexicanos made his candidacy highly visible.

His political platform was published in Spanish-language newspapers like La Revista de Taos. This ensured that Spanish speakers would understand his support for farmers, ranchers, educators, children and families. She was devoted to nuevomexicanos and said she would consider him “un alto honor y una oportunidad para el servicio” – “a great honor and an opportunity to serve” if elected to Congress.

2. What has she done for education in New Mexico?

As the first Latin headmistress of public schools in Santa Fe, a position she held from 1917 to 1929, Otero-Warren promoted education in Santa Fe and surrounding rural areas. She also lobbied for bilingual and Indigenous education in schools and communities. Beginning in 1848, federal politicians had attempted to eliminate Spanish in educational institutions and for official purposes in New Mexico as a condition of its statehood. In 1912, when New Mexico became a state, its constitution finally retained Spanish as the official state language.

Otero-Warren has balanced the needs and desires of Spanish-speaking nuevomexicanos with federal-level expectations regarding the use of English in public schools. Otero-Warren and others have lobbied state leaders to ensure that Spanish is kept as the public language so that Spanish speakers are not prevented from being hired and appointed to federal positions and funded. by the state. In doing so, they maintained the social and political emancipation of the nuevomexicanos.

She also lobbied for better sanitary conditions and living quarters for children at the Santa Fe Indian School, a boarding school for Native children established by the federal government in 1890. Otero-Warren was an Inspector of Indian Services for the Department of ‘Interior from 1922. to 1924 and was the first woman to occupy this role.

Otero-Warren served as state supervisor of literacy classes in 1937 under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration. In this role, she designed an educational program for Spanish-speaking adults to learn English in their communities while maintaining their Spanish literacy.

Later in her life, she wrote about Indo-Hispanic life in New Mexico. His book “Old Spain in Our Southwest” told the stories of new Mexicans in their own words. This went against the description of New Mexicoers in many English-language publications as primitive, uneducated, or illiterate.

In his book, Otero-Warren made New Mexican culture intelligible to outsiders. She did this by documenting community practices such as Holy Week celebrations or wedding rituals, recording bilingual expressions such as “Ni con jabón de la Puebla” to say something so dirty that even a soap end could not clean it, and recalling shared values ​​and education. practices prior to American colonization.

How does she remember her in New Mexico today?

Otero-Warren is commemorated as an advocate for women’s suffrage on a mural in downtown Albuquerque. It is a daily visual reminder in the heart of the city of his vital political interventions. The New Mexico Historic Women Marker Initiative, launched in 2007, dedicated a historic marker to Otero-Warren in her birthplace of La Costancia, connecting her to community and home.

The 2021 publication of El feliz ingenio neomexicano, a bilingual collection of poems by journalist Felipe M. Chacón, brought Otero-Warren’s active political life back to the fore. His 1922 poem supporting his campaign for Congress noted that his election would reflect New Mexico’s progressivism, advanced by its Spanish-speaking citizens. Her lyrics reflect how she is still known today:

“Cubrirá Nuevo México de Gloria / Poniendo una mujer en el Congreso… Un brindis de alegría / Placer del progresivo ciudadano.”

“New Mexico will be showered with glory / Sending a woman to Congress… A toast of joy / And gratitude from its progressive citizens.”

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/nina-otero-warren-latina-champion-of-womens-voting-rights-and-education-in-new-mexico-will-soon-grace-us – quarters-177311.

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