More than a “Worker’s Wife:” Women’s Farm Labor and Civil Rights Contributions During the 1940s

While most New Deal recovery measures concentrated on protecting the vitality of the male head of household and the so-called 'family wage,' migrant farmworkers truly depended on a family economy where, in most cases, all members (including children) worked alongside one another in the fields. Consequently, migrants understood their status as laborers and citizens as intimately connected with their identity and responsibilities as fathers, mothers, and members of extended families, which sometimes included their work crews.

Lecture Description

This talk will center on the important actions Mexican and Mexican American migrant women residing in the Texas farm labor camps during the 1930s and 1940s took to establish the camps as sites of democratic reform, and advance their family’s labor and civil rights. Despite their long-standing experience as farmers, farmworkers, and packing shed and cannery employees, government officials repeatedly ignored or discredited Tejanas’ productive labor contributions. As wives, mothers, or daughters of workers, Tejanas were characterized as supportive but not pivotal to the family economy. Rather than accepting that the camps’ gendered constraints were emblematic of dominant ideology at the time, this talk will consider how progressive federal officials reconstituted a political framework that kept farmworkers disenfranchised, divided, and bound in their exploited condition by subverting more solidaristic possibilities.


Agricultural Women's Rights, Activism, and Suffrage

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Verónica Martínez-Matsuda

VIEW SPEAKER : Verónica Martínez-Matsuda

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