What is the Chicana Movement?

The Birth of Chicana Feminist Thought

Chicana Ideologies and Issues

Chicana Expressions

Image Gallery



Credits Page

AC213 Homepage



















































The Birth of Chicana Feminist Thought

Of all our sources, Karen Anderson's Changing Woman provided the most indepth explanation of the movement from the traditional Mexicana women became the progressive Chicana women.

Mexicans as refugees

Present day Chicanas are descended from the Mexicanas who immigrated to the United States after the unrest of the 1910 Mexican Revolution. These Mexican citizens were tired of the social and economic instability they found in their country and hoped for greater opportunity in the North. The Anglos settlers did not greet them with open arms, but instead saw them as outsiders who could be exploited on the labor market. Through this, Mexicans began their transformation from traditional Mexican women controlled by their husbands, to fledging workers with a larger degree of control in their households and society.

Mexican-American women in traditional roles

Traditionally in Mexican society, Mexican women were under the authority of Mexican men. Men derived their macho maleness from both the jobs they worked and their dominion over their wife. Mexican women had status chiefly due to, at a young age, their virginal purity, and later as a capable wife and mother. This virginal purity was extremely important because in Mexican society young women were considered sexually erratic, capable of sin against their society and their religion at a moments notice. Therefore men’s control of their women’s sexuality was at the heart of their duties as Mexican men and their reputations were tied to it. This is important Mexican men were loathe to allow Mexicanas to change their role as male identity was dependent primarily on control and upholding of traditional female identity. Because of this, Mexicana’s felt trapped in this role that gave them few other options for expressing themselves.

Motherhood as Power

Male domination of women does not take away from the power women derived from their role as a mother. The problem was that this role was heavily predicated on a women’s ability to have as many children as possible and sacrifice as much as possible for them. As can be imagined, raising three or four or five children is quite a sacrifice. A woman with many children would have no choice but to pursue the motherly role.  A woman who would only want one child would be considered a social pariah, not an “independent” woman.



Mexicanas as workers         

Mexicanas great leap forward came about as Chicano families gradually adapted to the market economy of the U.S. Large agribusiness farms prevented subsistence agricultural life and forced Mexican men to work for wages. As attitudes in America liberalized, women were let into the workplace. This dramatically changed their status. Even though they were at the bottom of the wage laborer ladder, they now had a social identity that was independent of the men. Women worked in both factories and domestic service work.

Resistance from Macho Culture

Men did not take to these changes lightly, “A Mexican printer in Chicago asserted that “if our wives went to work, they would meet some other men and would go away with them; I would not blame my wife, I would blame myself, because I have control of her.” As a result, most married Mexican women took work outside of the home only as a last, desperate necessity.”4 Women were still discriminated against in terms of their wages. In a 1936 U.S. Women’s bureau study, Mexican women made $5.85 a week to a white women’s $8.75 5.

Soon, with a greater release from the old tradition economic role of the mother, Mexican-American women were at the beginning of a crossroads in their gender and power. They began to adopt Anglo progress in terms of women’s rights. As some Mexican women slowly adopted modern customs, such as smaller families, two working parents, and especially birth control, Mexicanas made great social progress.