Let’s face it, it’s hard to just choose a handful of inspiring women when there’s an abundance of women who have done and are doing great things! Women’s History Month, observed in March in the United States, is meant to celebrate the wonderful things women have contributed to this country throughout history, and this month we want to make sure we’re acknowledging the amazing Latina-Americans who have been incredibly influential pioneers and idols.
From artists to astronauts, here are 6 Latinas you should know about!
At 90 years old, Dolores Huerta is a living civil rights icon, still standing tall in the fight for Hispanic American labor rights. She organized workers to form boycotts, negotiated employment contracts, and advocated for safer working conditions for migrant farmers. Due to her hard work and commitment, she made United Farm Workers possible. As co-founder of the labor union in the U.S., she played a key role in bringing about legislation and reforms that protect agricultural workers. But she didn’t just stop there – Huerta’s activism connected her to the feminist movement as well. She advocated for women laborers by speaking up against gender inequality and highlighted the unique problems women faced in the workforce. Learn more about her and the Dolores Huerta Foundation here!
Dr. Antonia Novello
Dr. Antonia Coello Novello is a Puerto Rican physician and public health administrator who was the first woman and first Latina to become Surgeon General of the United States – making both women and the Latinx community proud! Novello studied at the University of Puerto Rico of Medicine and then moved to the states to continue her career. She set her eyes on children’s health and underserved communities, leading anti-smoking campaigns and AIDS education and awareness among others. Her public role in medicine allows her to create a lasting difference in more ways than one. “I want to be able to look back someday and say, ‘I did make a difference. ‘ Whether it was to open the minds of people to think that a woman can do a good job, or whether it’s the fact that so many kids out there think that they could be like me.” Want to learn more about Antonia Novello? More on her here.
This woman doesn’t even need an intro! Although she brought azucar to everything, Celia Cruz also brought the spice! Popularly known as the “Queen of Salsa” or the “Queen of Latin Music,” this Afro-Cuban American proudly embraced her roots through her music and was renowned internationally. Paving the way for other female singers to follow in her footsteps,
the adored, multi-award winner released 188 songs throughout her career, with “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” as one of her biggest hits. The song allowed the Black Latina identity to be associated with pride, celebration, confidence, and self-worth. Cruz is additionally well-known for her interjections in songs, saying “azucar!,” which directly translates to sugar. Some people interpreted it as a reference to the African slaves who worked on Cuba’s sugar plantations – needless to say, she had an undeniable impact. Sadly, the icon died in 2003 at the age of 77 due to complications after surgery for a brain tumor. However, to date, her music and legacy still live on. Check out her biography here!
Now, IIeana Ros-Lehtinen has a lot of firsts! She is currently a politician and lobbyist from Miami. She was the first Latina to serve in both the Florida house and the state’s senate, the first Latina to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first Latina-American woman in congress, and the first woman period to ever be chair of a regular standing committee of the House. This all means a lot considering the number of Latina and Hispanic women in politics overall, with less than 3% of representation in congress alone. With all her accomplishments, she serves as a great role model for aspiring girls everywhere. Learn more about her here.
Dr. Ellen Ochoa
In 1993, Dr. Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space! How’s that for “the sky’s the limit!” The NASA Training Program is extremely competitive, and Ochoa applied three times before being accepted in 1990. Three years later, on her first trip to space, Ochoa served aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on a nine-day mission to research into the Earth’s ozone layer. Overall, she logged in nearly 1000 hours in space. She’s currently an engineer and is recognized through her service to NASA and the advancement of Latinas and Hispanic women in such fields. Check out her credentials on the NASA website, here.
As a Bronx native of Puerto Rican descent who attended Princeton and Yale, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina to serve as a member of the Supreme Court of the United States after being nominated by President Barack Obama and winning by a vote of 68 to 31 from the U.S. Senate in 2009. She also began teaching at NYU School of Law and Columbia Law School to pass down her knowledge and experience. At age 67, she continues to exhibit strength through her compassion and generosity. You can learn a little more about her here.
This blog post is to acknowledge and commemorate the accomplished women in our society, but these women are just a few of millions of amazing Latina and Hispanic women here in the United States. Who would you like to pay tribute to?