Reading List for Women’s History Month

Are you looking for more books by Latinas to read this Women’s History Month? Why not read a recovered manuscript?! Here is a list of manuscripts recovered and published by Arte Público Press/Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. Enjoy!

A Nation of Women: An Early Feminist Speaks Out (Mi opinión sobre las libertades, derechos y deberes de la mujer) by Luisa Capetillo

Mi opinión is considered by many to be the first feminist treatise in Puerto Rico and one of the first in Latin America and the Caribbean.  In concise prose, Capetillo advocates a workers’ revolution, forcefully demanding an end to the exploitation and subordination of workers and women.

 


Absolute Equality: An Early Feminist Perspective (Influencias de las ideas modernas) by Luisa Capetillo

In Luisa Capetillo’s three-act play written in 1907, “Influences of Modern Ideas,” Angelina, the daughter of a rich Puerto Rican businessman and landowner, educates herself by reading the works of European writers, philosophers, and anarchists. After reading Tolstoy’s The Slavery of Our Times, she is convinced that “the slavery of our times is the inflexible wage law.” As the workers go on strike in her home town of Arecibo, Angelina tries to convince her father to give his property—home, factories, land—to the working class. And so the stage is set for Capetillo, a militant feminist, anarchist, and labor leader, to inform the public about her passions: the fight for workers’ rights; the struggle for justice and equality, for women as well as workers; and the education of all classes and sexes. The themes in this social protest play appear throughout Capetillo’s writings.


The Collected Stories of María Cristina Mena 

This volume gathers for the first time Mena’s stories written between 1913 and 1931 and published originally in such magazines as Century, American and Cosmopolitan. In her short fiction Mena writes about Mexico for an Anglo-American audience, and skillfully confronts issues of gender, race and nation.

 

 


Dew on the Thorn by Jovita González

Dew on the Thorn seeks to recreate the life of Texas Mexicans as Anglo culture gradually encroached upon them. González, a former president of the Texas Folklore Society, provides us with a richly detailed portrait of the ranch life of the Olivares clan of South Texas, focusing on the cultural traditions of Texas Mexicans at a time when the divisions of class and race were pressing on the established way of life.

 


Feminist and Abolitionist: The Story of Emilia Casanova

When asked to deliver contraband papers to her native island home of Cuba in 1852, twenty-year-old Emilia Casanova gulped audibly in a most unladylike manner. This was her chance to be in the thick of the rebellion against Spanish authority instead of on the sidelines more befitting someone of her station. Even though she would be branded a traitor and endanger her family if she was caught, she pushed her fear aside and accepted the mission.

Back in Cuba following her first summer abroad, distributing seditious propaganda isn’t as easy as it had seemed while in New York. But she honors her commitment to the Junta Cubana, a group of Cuban revolutionaries living in exile in the U. S., and begins her efforts to convert compatriots to the cause of independence from Spain. She begins planting the seeds of insubordination in her social circle and enlists two of her brothers in the cause. Things become more dangerous when she targets soldiers in the garrison close to the family’s home, and it doesn’t take long for one of her brothers to be exposed. Soon Emilia’s father is forced to lead his entire family away from their home and into exile in the U. S.


Firefly Summer by Pura Belpré

Firefly Summer is an enchanting poetic recreation of life in rural Puerto Rico at the turn of the century. Returning home to her parents’ plantation for the holidays, a young student rediscovers the quaint customs, music and lore of country folk, and the lush verdant beauty and lure of the tropical hills. Teresa is honored when her family initiates her in their traditional rites and celebrations that mark the seasons of the year as well as the stages in people’s lives.

However this idyllic journey is not without intrigue. Unknown to Teresa and her best friend from school, there is a real-life mystery unraveling concerning the foreman of the plantation who was raised by the family since early childhood. In the course of their sleuthing, the three young people discover the challenges of approaching adulthood. The events of the summer bind the trio in a lasting friendship.


History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio by Adina de Zavala

Originally published in 1917 by Adina de Zavala, this volume reconstructs the history of the Alamo back to pre-colonial times. Its importance lies not only in its portrayal of Texas’ history as a product of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American contributions, but also in its focus on the role of Texas women and Texas Mexicans in shaping the historical record. At a time when Texas Mexican women held little influence, de Zavala attempted to rewrite the way Texas history was written and constructed. This milestone literary work includes historical maps, plates, diary accounts and other records.

 


The Rebel by Leonor Villegas de Magnón

The Rebel, by Leonor Villegas de Magnón, is the autobiography of the Mexican-American feminist and pacifist who served as a nurse in the Mexican Revolution and became active in Texas politics and culture. Originally written in the 1920s but never published, The Rebel stands as one of the few written documents which consciously challenges misconceptions of Mexican Americans.

 

 


La Rebelde by Leonor Villegas de Magnón

La Rebelde is the original Spanish-language version of Leonor Villegas de Magnón’s memoir. Many women from both sides of the border risked their lives and left their families to support the Mexican Revolution.  Years later, however, when their participation remained unacknowledged and was running the risk of being forgotten, Villegas de Magnón decided to write her personal account of this history. With enthralling text and 22 pages of photos, La Rebelde examines the period from 1876 through 1920, documenting the heroic actions of the women.  Written in the third person with a romantic fervor, the narrative weaves Villegas de Magnón’s autobiography with the story of La Cruz Blanca.

 


The Squatter and the Don by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Originally published in San Francisco in 1885, The Squatter and the Don is the first fictional narrative written and published in English from the perspective of the conquered Mexican population. Despite being granted the full rights of citizenship under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, this group had become a subordinated and marginalized national minority by 1860.

 

 


The Woman Who Lost Her Soul and Other Stories: Collected Tales and Short Stories by Jovita González

Jovita González was long a member—and ultimately served as president—of the Texas Folklore Society, which strove to preserve the oral traditions and customs of her native state. Many of the folklore-based stories in this volume were published by González in periodicals such as the Southwest Review from the 1920s through the 1940s but have been gathered here for the first time.

 

 


Who Would Have Thought It? by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Who Would Have Thought It? (1872) is a historical romance which engages the dominant myths about nationality, race and gender prevalent in society in the United States, prior to and during the Civil War. The narrative follows a young Mexican girl as she is delivered from Indian captivity in the Southwest and comes to live in the household of a New England family. Culture and perspectives on history and national identity clash as the novel criticizes the dominant society’s opportunism and hypocrisy, and indicts northern racism.

 

 


Women’s Tales from the New Mexico WPA: La Diabla a Pie

At the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the administration of U. S. President Franklin Roosevelt instituted a Federal Writers Project as part of the larger Works Progress Administration (WPA), massive national undertakings aimed at getting the nation back to work. Many people participated in compiling a series of state-by-state guides to the country. Other writers’ projects included the gathering of folk songs and oral narratives by still-living ex-slaves.

 


For lists of contemporary woman-centric writings, see Arte Público Press’s Women’s History Month Fiction Titles list and their Non-Fiction Titles list.

About the Author
Lorena Gauthereau is a CLIR-Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage at the University of Houston.

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