Hispanic Women in History and Activism: Collections
The Chicano movement began as a demand for civil rights among Mexican Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. Inspired by the political activism of African Americans, Mexican Americans also began to demand equality and civil rights across the United States. Mexican Americans faced combinations of racial discrimination, disenfranchisement, educational segregation, and economic hardships. In confronting these challenges, Mexican American activists—some recently arrived immigrants from Mexico and others with long-standing generational ties to the United States—began to organize themselves and their communities. As part of this growing activism, the term “Chicano” began to be reclaimed by Mexican American civil rights activists in the 1960s as a way to express political solidarity and pride in their culture and community. Important figures in this fight for social and political justice included civil rights activists, such as César Chávez and Dolores Huerta and their United Farm Workers organization.
Although the Chicano movement succeeded in bringing the challenges and hardships of Mexican Americans to the forefront of the political conversation, many Chicana activists felt excluded from the predominately male leadership of the Chicano movement. They believed that the opportunities and gains won by the Chicano movement were not reaching Chicana and Latina women, and that the networks, connections, and leadership opportunities for Chicana and Latina activists and professional women weren’t being created. Despite the prominence of figures like Dolores Huerta, Chicana and Latina women were being ostracized from the gains of the movement.
One organization that was started to correct this imbalance was the Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional. Begun in 1970 by feminist activists who, having attended the annual National Chicano Issues Conferences, felt that the issues of women weren’t being fully addressed by the larger Chicano movement—that the Chicano movement was unwilling to address the issues of Mexican American women because its leadership was predominately male. Unhappy with the outcome of the Issues Conferences, led by Francisca Flores, they started the Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional in an attempt to avoid the sexism of the male-dominated Chicano movement and the racial discrimination of the broader feminist movement in the country.