History of
Chicana Feminism

"Revolutionary Chicanas want the
liberation for our people
and all oppressed peoples."
-Elizabeth Martinez

The Chicano Movement:

The mid to late sixties were a time for radical organization by minority groups. Following the Civil Right Movement (which peaked from 1955-1965) many separate movements began to emerge. There was the Young Lords Party formed by the Puerto Ricans in Chicago and New York, the Black Panthers formed in the California bay area, and the Chicano Movement started to emerge in many different forms.

The first part of the Chicano Movement began with Cesar Chavez and the creation of National Farm Workers Association. This organization later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). He and co-founder Dolores Huerta organized grape strikes, non-violent protests, hunger strikes, and marches against the farmers. Some of the major accomplishments of the UFW include improved working environments (the outlaw of DDT), unemployment benefits, and the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. 19

The Alianza Federal de Mercedes, founded by Reies Lopez Tijerina, was a group that focused on Chicano history within the United States. It wanted to "restore" ownership to those who lived on the land prior to the Mexican- American war. The motto of this movement was "The Land Is Our Inheritance, Justice Is Our Creed." Alianza, as well as the UFW, focused most of its attention on rural and land-related issues. They had failed to address issues of the barrio.

The Crusade for Justice, founded in 1965 by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, did address urban Chicano communities. The goals of this organization were to establish communities controlled by Chicanos and to embrace their cultural nationalism. It focused on Chicano youth and was mainly comprised of students. They rejected assimilation and embraced their culture. They fought to have their culture become part of the curriculum in their schools. It was an organization for "Chicano Power."

La Raza Unida party was formed a in Crystal City, TX, in 1970 by Jose Angel Gutierrez. It attempted to "institutionalize Chicano students in national political terms and on a nation wide basis." Crystal City was 80% Mexican-American but they had no representation in the city counsel or on the school board. They organized a boycott against the school through walkouts. Through student walkouts at school, the adults in the Chicano Communities were reached. On April 4th, 1970 four Chicanos from the La Raza Unida party were elected to the school board. Because of the success of La Raza Unida party in Crystal City, many other cities and states in the southwest United States organized their own branches of the party.

These are a few of the major organizations that took place in the Chicana/o movement in earlier and later part of the sixties. Other groups include: the Brown Berets, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), and many other student organizations. 21

The Anglo Feminist Movement:

The Anglo Feminist Movement came to life in two different ways. The first was with the formation of the National Organization for Women (NOW) which was started in 1966. Adult women and men were those represented in this part of the movement. They wanted equality for women in government, employment and labor unions. The other movement consisted of young women; most of them were currently in just out of college. It was unofficially named the Women's Liberation Movement. The majority of them had been active earlier in the civil rights and antiwar movements. This group was considered more radical than NOW. They focused on issues such as reproductive rights, violence to women, and sexuality. They wanted to change the patriarchal society. Both groups were comprised primarily of women whom were white and middle class to upper class. Some of the main victories of Women's Liberation Movement was the legalization of abortion in 1973, laws dealing with rape and abuse to women, laws pertaining to sterilization, affirmative action programs, and Title IX passed in 1972. 11

The Chicana Feminist Movement:

In March 1969 the Denver Youth Conference took place. At this conference a workshop was held discussing the role of women in the movement. The women of this workshop stated, "It was the consensus of the group that the Chicana woman does not want to be liberated." This was one of the principle actions that sparked the Chicana Feminist Movement. Soon after this, woman began to organize. In May 1971 over 600 Chicanas met in Houston, TX for the Mujeres Por La Raza Conference. The two largest workshops held at this conference were "Sex and the Chicana" and "Marriage- Chicana Style." A survey was taken at this conference showed that 84% of the women there felt as though they were not encouraged to seek professional careers and education was not considered important for Chicanas, 84% thought that there was not equal pay for equal work, and 72% felt as though there was discrimination towards them in La Raza. 4 Along with organizing women's caucuses and holding conferences Chicanas also know that getting their words out there was important as well. In 1973 Encuentro Femenil, the first Chicana Feminist journal, was published. This journal explores the sexism and racism facing Chicanas at the time. It also made distinctions between its movement and the Anglo Feminist Movement. There were other important publications emerging at this time such as the newspaperHijas de Cuauhtemoc and a book of articles called La Mujer En Pie de La Lucha. 5 Chicana feminism, which paralleled to the Chicano movement, helped the Chicana become recognized as a valuable asset in her community. A few prominent names in Chicana Feminism are Mirta Vidal, Anna NietoGomez, Martha Cotera, and Gloria Anzaldua. There are many more that emerged from the feminist and Chicano movement in the seventies and eighties. The struggles for these women were not always easy ones.

The Chicana could not rely on the men in the Chicano Movement or the women in the Women's Liberation Movement. Each of the movements wanted the Chicana to sacrifice her needs for the larger movement. Women who fought for their rights were often told by both groups that they had to choose between being women and being Chicana.

Chicanos and Chicano loyalists often accused Chicanas of being venditas or traitors to the movement and compared to Anglos of the Women's Liberation movement. They are viewed as being anti-family, anti-cultural, and anti-man. They accused them of trying to split the movement and not supporting the cause. The Chicano movement often ignored the request of Chicanas to incorporate issues such as abortion and reproductive choice (along with other issues important to Chicanas) into their platform. This backlash from the community forced Chicanas to discuss how Chicana Feminism should relate its movement to the rest of the Chicano Movement. 20 Loyalists to the Chicano movement felt that racism needed to be addressed before sexism. They used arguments against Chicanas were disrupting the roles or males and females with in the Chicano community. The more independent she became, the more she was labeled by the movement as Mujer Mala (or Bad Women) and the more they were accused of taking up the Anglo woman's fight.

Chicana had two main arguments to counter these accusations. They pointed out historical independent women in Chicano and Mexican history. They used examples of women who fought in the Mexican Revolution. They used examples of indigenous women prior to colonization by Spain and how they were strong, independent equals in the society. They also used nun and writer Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, and more modern references of UFW co-founder and activist Dolores Huerta. The other argument used by Chicanas was "the need to remake the family in struggle against Anglo domination." This was different from the Anglo movement because there was not much importance placed on the family structure in the Anglo movement. Through restructuring the family Chicanas thought the movement would progress further. They wanted to change the traditional gender roles imposed on them while recognizing the importance of the family structure in the Chicana/o community.

There were other differences between the Women's Liberation movement and the Chicana Feminist movement was the inclusion of race and class. The Anglo women focused on gender and felt that Chicanas should choose gender over culture. Chicanas had faced oppression concerning all three of these and did not think that one was more important than the other. Also, Chicanas lack of participation in the Anglo Feminist movement helped to reassure Chicano loyalists that they were not traitors to their culture and community. 22 The Women's Liberation movement viewed the Chicana women, and other minorities as well, as all similar. The classism of the movement failed to recognize the diverse background that these women came from. Anglo feminists felt superior not only in race but in class and often undermined and disregarded the ideology of different minority feminist movements. 26



"While it is true that the unity of La Raza is the basic foundation of the Chicano movement, when Chicano men talk about maintaining La Familia and the 'cultural heritage' of La Raza, they are in fact talking about maintaining the age-old concept of keeping the woman barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. On the basis of the subordination of women, there can be no real unity....The only real unity between men and women is the unity forged in the course of struggle against their oppression.  And it is by supporting, rather than opposing, the struggles of women, that Chicanos and Chicanas can genuinely unite. "
Mirta Vidal, The Unity of "La Raza" (1972)


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