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Who Was Jovita Idar?

Jovita Idar BELatina Latinx

Celebrating the voices of our generation, those who break paradigms and blaze trails, is as important as recognizing the people who did the same in the past. Take the example of Mexican-American journalist, activist, and feminist icon Jovita Idar, who was a powerful voice for Mexican immigrants during the Mexican Revolution.

Idar is known for using her voice to speak out for the needs and rights of her community. However, her work went far beyond that: the journalist created spaces and broke structures, allowing many of us to do the work we do today.

Born in Laredo, Texas, on Sept. 7, 1885, Idar was raised in a family that was all about civil rights advocacy. According to Women’s History, “from an early age, Idar was exposed to journalism and political activism.” Her father was a newspaper editor, and her mother a Mexican-American civil rights advocate — a career combination that thrives on being heard. 

As a teacher, Idar saw the poor conditions her students faced and decided to do something about it. 

She started involving herself in her father’s civil rights enriched newspaper “La Crónica,” where she worked alongside two of her brothers. According to Women & The American Story: the newspaper’s “regular topics included anti-Hispanic racism, school segregation, the promotion of Anglo-American culture in schools, the lynching of Hispanics, and the Catholic Church’s poor treatment of women.” 

Through journalism, Idar felt more empowered and actually felt that she was making a difference. She would constantly write about Mexican-American rights and women’s rights. She was so involved in her community that she founded the feminist organization “La Liga Feminil Mexicaista,” which provided aid to educate Mexican-American children. The Texas State Historical Association describes the organization as: “a social, cultural, political, and charitable organization for Mexican-American women” that not only helped educate low-income children but also provided food and clothing to those who needed it.

And Idar’s legacy reaches further. She was a teacher, writer, and founder of a historical feminist organization and also served as a nurse during the Mexican Revolution when it was needed the most. Impressive, isn’t she? In her lifetime, she not only did one profession – but left her legacy in three of the most hands-on fields that helped serve her people.

After being a nurse at La Cruz Blanca, she went back into journalism. This is when she made news — while working at the newspaper “El Progreso” back in Laredo, Texas, she found herself dealing with the Texas Rangers themselves after publishing an article talking down on President Woodrow Wilson. According to one of her biographies, she fought this, saying the First Amendment protected the newspaper, but ultimately they “destroyed the newspaper’s presses” soon after.

However, this didn’t slow down her resilience in journalism. According to sources, she continued writing for other media outlets throughout the remainder of her life. She got married and continued being involved in activism by becoming a political leader in their community with her husband. According to Women & The American Story, she continued making free education happen in her community by providing free kindergarten. She also worked as a Spanish translator at her local hospital.

There is no hesitancy when I say that Idar was truly an inspiration and a reminder that you don’t need to box yourself in one area. You can absolutely thrive in many fields that align with your values!

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