Jovita Idár, the Mexican-American civil rights pioneer

Jovita denounced injustice, racism, and discrimination in the U.S.

Jovita Idár, the Mexican-American civil rights pioneer
Jovita Idár was a Mexican-American journalist, activist, suffragist, teacher, and nurse - Photo: GENERAL PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION/UTSA LIBRARIES SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
English 21/09/2020 15:15 Newsroom/EL UNIVERSAL in English Mexico City Actualizada 15:18

Jovita Idár was a Mexican-American journalist, activist, suffragist, teacher, and nurse. According to the National Women’s History Museum, “she single-handedly protected her newspaper headquarters when the Texas Rangers came to shut it down and crossed the border to serve as a nurse during the Mexican Revolution.” 

Idár was born in 1885 in Laredo, Texas. Her father, Nicasio Idár, was a newspaper editor and a civil rights advocate. Jovita became a teacher but resigned due to segregation faced by Mexican-American students. She then started working at La Crónica, her father’s newspaper. Through her career as a journalist, Idár often addressed issues such as Mexican-American rights, racism, Mexican culture, and she openly supported the Mexican revolution.

According to the Texas State Historical Association, “La Crónica was vocal in criticizing certain aspects of Hispanic-Anglo relations. It featured stories on educational and social discrimination against Mexican-Americans, deteriorating economic conditions, decreasing use of the Spanish language, the loss of Mexican culture, and lynchings of Hispanics.”

Jovita Idár also supported women’s right to vote. Throughout her lifetime, she strongly supported women’s rights and suffrage. She also founded La Liga Femenil Mexicanista (the League of Mexican Women) in 1911, which provided education to Mexican-American students. 

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She later traveled to Mexico to serve as a nurse during the Mexican Revolution. She was part of an organization called La Cruz Blanca. 

When she went back to the U.S., she began working at El Progreso newspaper. After she criticized President Woodrow Wilson’s decision to send U.S. troops to the border with Mexico, the army and the Texas Rangers tried to shut down the newspaper, but Jovita didn’t allow it. Nevertheless, they returned and were able to shut the newspaper down.

She continued writing and promoting women’s rights and Mexican-American rights. She was known for saying, “when you educate a woman, you educate a family.”

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