Jovita Idár, the Radical Muckraking Mexican-American Journalist?

Jovita Idár was one of the most influential Mexican-American journalists of the early 20th century. Publishing newspapers, writing books, and giving speeches across the American Southwest and beyond. Though Idár spoke out against her government when it committed injustices against its people. She also fought to defend and empower women. Which made her an unconventional crusader in both Mexico and the United States. Here’s everything you need to know about Jovita Idár, the radical muckraking Mexican-American journalist.

Why should you care about her

If you’re interested in journalism as a career, for instance—and even if you’re not—her story is a must-read. Not only does she show you how to make your voice heard in a world. Where people are often overlooked because of their gender or skin color; she also illustrates that your passion and commitment can truly change things. It’s never too late to read up on one of history’s most inspiring female journalists. (If you’re looking for more radical female activists to learn about, check out Sojourner Truth.)

How she made a difference

She was a prominent journalist in New York City. And a member of several organizations devoted to helping Mexicans in America. She joined La Liga Femenil Mexicana—the first women’s rights organization created by Mexican Americans—in 1919. In 1931, she helped found what is now known as the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). An advocacy group that works on behalf of Latinos in America. A fierce activist, she was well known for her muckraking journalism; her story about poor treatment. Of workers at a California cannery inspired passage of one of first federal child labor laws in 1937.

What she did to be recognized as an important figure in journalism history

Jovita Idár’s biggest claim to fame is that. She was a woman of color and an activist in an era when neither were common. She was a successful writer for newspapers like The People, The Pacific Appeal and Out West. Her big breakthrough came in 1906 when she exposed corruption at Occidental College. After a long tenure as editor at La Prensa Grafica. (the oldest Spanish-language newspaper still in print), she became one of the first female Latino reporters for Hearst News Service. At just 38 years old, Idár retired from journalism. (she had founded her own magazine called The Spanish American Woman). But continued to be active on other fronts as an advocate for birth control and women’s suffrage.

She was born in …

She was born in Michigan and spent her early years in Chicago. There she became a high school teacher and an important member of La Voz de la Mujer. (The Woman’s Voice), a women’s club whose aim was to use journalism to fight for women’s rights. When it folded in 1916, she went on to become editor of Tiempo Nuevo (New Times) newspaper. The first woman editor of any major publication in Los Angeles. A lifelong activist who fought tirelessly for civil rights and against corruption. Idár took on racist police brutality. Sweatshops that allowed employers to abuse female workers with impunity, political graft within the court system… The list goes on and on.

She is most well known for …

At a time when Mexico and its people were misunderstood in much of America. She reported on issues ranging from lynching to segregation to discrimination. She gained attention by reporting on conditions in Mexico that Americans would likely have never heard about otherwise. But she also focused her writing toward her homeland of Texas and on issues of inequality there. There is no doubt that Idár’s work would cause controversy among some readers. And that was part of what made it great. The fact that newspapers printed her columns. (and still do) shows just how relevant her writings are today as we continue to struggle with many of these same issues. Why weren’t more American journalists like Jovita Idár during an era when we needed them most?

What we can learn from her today …

The first woman of Mexican descent to have her work published in English was a muckraker and labor organizer. Who focused on issues of poverty and immigration. Born in Texas in 1881, Idár was part of an era when it wasn’t common for women to be journalists. Nevertheless, she started her career as a journalist. At El Paso Herald and went on to publish several articles in both Spanish and English. Her articles covered topics such as workers’ rights. Poor living conditions, corruption by government officials and other social injustices related to these communities. Much like today’s grassroots organizers protesting police brutality or poor working conditions. Idár rallied against big corporations that were killing local businesses or exploiting their workers. What can we learn from her today?

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