While bell hooks told us feminism is for everybody, history books represent a movement by and for white women primarily. Though often on the periphery, there are many feminist foremothers of color who helped build the movement. Here are just some of the Latina feministas who fought for the rights of women and other marginalized communities in the U.S.
1. Felisa Rincón de Gautier
In 1946, Felisa Rincón de Gautier broke barriers when she ran for and was elected mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, becoming the first woman to be elected as the mayor of a capital city in the Americas. She was an active participant in Puerto Rico’s women’s suffrage movement and pushed for child care programs that became the inspiration for the Unites States’ Head Start program. Doña Felisa, as she was called, received113 keys to different cities across Puerto Rico, the U.S., and Latin America and was awarded 11 honorary degrees.
2. Jovita Idar
Periodista y activista Jovita Idar started her social justice work in 1910, writing articles on racial discrimination, lynchings, and other violence by Texas Rangers for her father’s newspaper. In 1911, she formed the League of Mexican Women, recognized today as the first attempt in Mexican-American history to organize a feminist social movement, which provided free education for Tejano students and goods for the poor.
3. Sylvia Rivera
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time when Stonewall riots were making the gay-rights movement mainstream, bisexual trans Latina activist Sylvia Rivera advocated for the queer and transgender people the movement had left out. She did this through S.T.A.R., Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, an organization she co-founded in 1970 that aimed to achieve rights for the trans community and provide them with social services. But as a mujer of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan descent, Rivera’s activism also focused on intersecting issues of women’s rights, poverty, and race, driving her to organize with feminists, the Young Lords, and the Black Panther Party.