My Start Story Celebrates: Suffragist Adelina Otero-Warren

By: Start TV Staff     Posted: August 25, 2020, 4:18PM

Adelina Otero-Warren (1881 – 1965) was extremely active in New Mexico politics and the fight for women’s suffrage. In 1917, Alice Paul appointed Otero-Warren to lead the New Mexico chapter of the Congressional Union, which later became the National Woman’s Party. She was also an accomplished educator and took immense pride in her Spanish heritage. While still working in the suffrage movement in 1918, she became Superintendent of Public Schools in Santa Fe County, where she worked to improve conditions in Native American and rural Hispano communities for 12 years. In 1923, she was appointed Santa Fe County’s Inspector of Indian Schools.

Otero-Warren was also a politician and broke new ground as the first Latina to run for national office. In 1921, just after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, Otero-Warren ran for Congress and became the Republican Party nominee for New Mexico to the US House of Representatives. A staunch advocate for diversity, Otero-Warren fought for both Spanish and English to be allowed in schools—at a time where many were pushing for white America assimilation. A creative spirit herself, she was also a writer and wrote “Old Spain in Our Southwest.”

ABOUT THE NARRATOR:
PRISCILLA YBARRA
Writer & Professor, University of North Texas


Priscilla Ybarra is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of North Texas, where she looks at the intersection of environmental issues and Mexican American, Chicana/o writing. Some of her publications include Writing the Goodlife: Mexican American Literature and the Environment and Erasure by U.S. Legislation: Ruiz de Burton’s Nineteenth-Century Novels and the Lost Archive of Mexican American Environmental Knowledge.

Regarding Otero-Warren, Ybarra says, “Her participation shows that women of color have been contributing to this moment since before we could vote—that it’s not a linear sequence of historical development where women of color only start playing a role later. She shows that this was very much going on at the same time and she was participating and sacrificing her time and energy to this very important cause. And I’m just really impressed by the way that she ran for office as soon as women were eligible to vote. So as soon as it was possible for a woman to cast a vote, she didn’t just cast a vote—she volunteered to put her life on the line to stand up and represent people in New Mexico.


ABOUT THE NARRATOR:
ESTELLA LEOPOLD
Niece of Adelina Otero-Warren

Estella Leopold is the niece of New Mexican suffragist Adelina Otero-Warren. In this clip, she recounts fond memories of her aunt and offers a first-hand perspective of Otero-Warren's passions, personality and honorable character. Growing up with the influence of her aunt, Estella became extremely accomplished in her own right—receiving a degree in botany from UW-Madison before earning a master's degree at University of California Berkeley and a doctorate at Yale University.

Sharing an appreciation and reverence for the land with her suffragist kin, Estella spent her career studying paleobotany (the study of plants in fossilized form) and dedicated her life to conservation. She also worked for many years as a professor and has published more than 100 scientific papers and articles.

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