Friday, August 24, 2012

Brave Woman

Last week marked the 92nd anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote. Not only is it an important anniversary, but I recently learned that I have a genealogical connection to a New Mexico pioneer of the suffrage movement, which led to passage of that historical amendment.

Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren is a distant relative from the same Otero family in which my Great-Grandmother Eliza Otero descends. I only learned about Nina last week when other genealogists pointed her out to me after I told them about my Otero lineage. I read an article about her in the New Mexico Historical Review, and was immediately fascinated.

Aside from her considerable achievements, I was particularly drawn to the characterization of Nina as a very shy woman who was drawn into the public light – and New Mexico politics – by a strong conviction to make a difference. I was interested because I consider myself an introvert, always shy and more likely to express myself in writing.

In any case, Nina either overcame her shyness or learned to deal with it, in order to pursue some very worthy pursuits, including passage of the 19th Amendment. She was born in 1881 in La Constancia, Valencia County. At that time, my branch of the Otero family was living in western Valencia county – in Cubero. Nina was part of the family that included Miguel Otero, who would later become the first native New Mexican to serve as territorial governor.

Nina moved with her Uncle Miguel to Santa Fe in 1894, according to a feature about her in New Mexico Magazine. She was recruited to participate in the women’s suffrage movement, specifically to appeal to Spanish-speaking women in New Mexico. She attracted a loyal following, handing out bilingual fliers and delivering Spanish-language speeches at public rallies. A brief history on the State Historian’s web site credits Nina for helping to lead Mexican-American women into the political mainstream.

During the campaign for women’s rights, Nina was appointed, then elected as Superintendent of Santa Schools. Following passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, Nina followed in the footsteps of her uncles, who were prominent Republicans, and ran for Congress in 1922, ultimately losing in the general election.

The loss didn’t deter Nina. She later served as chair of the State Board of Health and was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as state director of the Civilian Conservation Corps. She was named state Director of Literacy Education in 1937 and Director of Adult Literacy in Puerto Rico in 1941.

1 comment:

  1. Nice... Great account of a great woman--- a true pioneer with regard to New Mexico history.