American Historical Association Presidential Address
Class Acts: Latina Feminist Traditions, 1900–30 Vicki L. Ruiz, University of California, Irvine
“[W]omen are capable of everything and anything,” declared Puerto Rican labor radical Luisa Capetillo, in her landmark feminist treatise, Mi opinión sobre las libertades, derechos y deberes de la mujer [My opinion on the liberties, rights, and duties of woman]. Published in 1911, this manifesto articulated a radical vision that promoted republican motherhood alongside free love and proletarian revolution. Less bold, a teenage Guatemalan feminist, Rosa Rodríguez López (aka Luisa Moreno) stressed the importance of education across class: “the woman continues to be attached to ignorance; her emancipation is necessary. Feminism will make her become Conscious…, and…by obtaining an adequate education, she will be prepared [for]…a much more ambitious future.”
At the turn of the 20th century, Luisa Capetillo emerged as a passionate leader in Puerto Rico’s labor movement and later extended her reach into the Caribbean and the United States. Luisa Moreno, the first Latina to hold national office in a major CIO union, is also known for her leadership in organizing, in 1939, the El Congreso de Pueblos de Habla Española (Spanish-Speaking People’s Congress), the first national US Latino civil rights conference. Though they never met (Capetillo died at age 42 when Moreno was only 16), their legacies as labor leaders and feminist intellectuals intersect in multiple ways, especially in terms of their unwavering commitment to a radical labor politics. Though starkly divergent, if at times hauntingly similar, their feminist writings reveal women’s transnational circuits of knowledge that extended across generations.
After the address, the AHA invites all registrants to a reception for 2015 president Vicki Ruiz in the Hilton's Grand Ballroom D from 6:30–8:00 p.m. Sponsored by HISTORY®