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Las Tejanas

Las Tejanas
300 Years of History

This groundbreaking book is at once a general history and a celebration of Tejanas' contributions to Texas over three centuries.

Series: Jack and Doris Smothers Endowment in Texas History, Life, and Culture

April 2003
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456 pages | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 | 142 b&w illus., 3 tables |

Since the early 1700s, women of Spanish/Mexican origin or descent have played a central, if often unacknowledged, role in Texas history. Tejanas have been community builders, political and religious leaders, founders of organizations, committed trade unionists, innovative educators, astute businesswomen, experienced professionals, and highly original artists. Giving their achievements the recognition they have long deserved, this groundbreaking book is at once a general history and a celebration of Tejanas' contributions to Texas over three centuries.

The authors have gathered and distilled a wide range of information to create this important resource. They offer one of the first detailed accounts of Tejanas' lives in the colonial period and from the Republic of Texas up to 1900. Drawing on the fuller documentation that exists for the twentieth century, they also examine many aspects of the modern Tejana experience, including Tejanas' contributions to education, business and the professions, faith and community, politics, and the arts. A large selection of photographs, a historical timeline, and profiles of fifty notable Tejanas complete the volume and assure its usefulness for a broad general audience, as well as for educators and historians.


2004 T.R. Fehrenbach Award
Texas Historical Commission

2003 T.R. Fehrenbach Book AwardTexas Reference Source Award
Reference Round Table, Texas Library Association

  • Foreword by Cynthia E. Orozco
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Native Women, Mestizas, and Colonists
  • Chapter 2: The Status of Women in the Colonial Period
  • Chapter 3: From the Republic of Texas to 1900
  • Chapter 4: Revolution, Racism, and Resistance: 1900-1940
  • Chapter 5: Life in Rural Texas: 1900-1940
  • Chapter 6: Life in Urban Texas: 1900-1940
  • Chapter 7: Education: Learning, Teaching, Leading
  • Chapter 8: Entering Business and the Professions
  • Chapter 9: Faith and Community
  • Chapter 10: Politics, the Chicano Movement, and Tejana Feminism
  • Chapter 11: Winning and Holding Public Office
  • Chapter 12: Arts and Culture
  • Epilogue: Grinding Corn
  • Fifty Notable Tejanas
  • Time Line
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Teresa Palomo Acosta is a Chicana poet who was formerly a research associate with the Texas State Historical Association. She lives in Austin.

Ruthe Winegarten is an independent scholar and writer of Texas women's history in Austin.




This book is the first general history of Tejanas, women of Spanish-Mexican origin in Texas. Our account covers their history in the state from 1700 to 2000.


We believe that this book is important and timely for two major reasons. First, the population of Mexican Americans in Texas has grown dramatically in the last decade, generating the need for such a publication. Second, a number of Tejana and other scholars have added greatly to our understanding of Mexican American women's history in the state through their work on the New Handbook of Texas (Texas State Historical Association, 1996). Their efforts resulted in significant Handbook articles on Tejanas in the arts, business, civil rights, community building, education, feminism, labor, politics, religion, and other areas. These researchers' contributions to the New Handbook of Texas provided the first substantial coverage of Mexican American women's history in any publication on Texas history published to that date.


A Survey of Tejanas over Three Hundred Years


In writing this book, our first concern was to create a broad outline of Tejanas rather than to develop a theoretical analysis or to discuss their relationship with others in the state--women of other ethnic or racial groups, for instance. We have thus provided the reader a general survey of Mexican origin women, placing them within the framework of Tejano history. We have also included a time line that provides a general context for understanding Tejana history.


In our account we lay out the rich tapestry of Tejana history across three centuries. We show that Mexican origin women have played central roles as pioneers in the settlement of the land that became Texas. We describe their work as community builders and leaders; as founders of organizations; and as innovative educators, astute businesswomen, experienced professionals, committed trade unionists, and ground-breaking artists.


Our book is thus partly a celebration of Tejanas' notable contributions from 1700 to 2000, partly an account of their economic, human, and political struggles and triumphs in the state.




In general we use the term "Tejana" to define the woman who is our subject, but we have also used related terms, including "Chicana," "mestiza," "Mexican," "Mexicana," "Mexican origin (or Mexican descent) woman," "Mexican American," and "Texas Mexican." We believe that these terms reflect more fully the cultural, ethnic, and racial heritage of the women.


We recognize that some in the Mexican origin community in the state have more recently adopted the term "Hispanic" to identify themselves, and we acknowledge that the government and mass media have also adopted the term to refer generally to Spanish-speaking people in the United States. The terms "Latina" and "Latino" have also gained wider usage recently. We have used the terms "Hispanic," "Latina," and "Latino" whenever they are part of an organization's name, when they are self-determined identifiers, or when public records depict Mexican Americans as Hispanics, Latinas, and Latinos.


Future Research and Publications


We anticipate that our book will encourage others to write new interpretations of Mexican American women's history, books and articles that will add in-depth insights to the numerous topics that we cover in a general manner. For instance, accounts that discuss women in the colonial era and the nineteenth century can fill in gaps in Tejana history from those periods. Likewise, accounts that cover Texas Mexican women's roles in the Mexican Revolution are also greatly needed. The area of labor history can benefit from new ideas, and women's roles as business and professional leaders offer a fertile terrain for scholars. Moreover, Mexican American female politicians, including those involved in the Raza Unida Party from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, deserve both an oral history project and a book. In addition, much-needed scholarship on native women in the state will bring a greater understanding of the indigenous roots of Mexican American women.


The extraordinary output of Tejana musicians, stage performers, writers, and visual artists must also be excavated. Numerous publications from various periods can provide the researcher valuable materials on the artistic endeavors of Mexican American women in Texas. For example, literary anthologies and journals from the 1970s await scholars willing to investigate Tejanas' literary output during the Chicano literary renaissance. Moreover, we urge scholars to write biographies about Tejanas in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, and other locations. There is virtually no region of the state where a wellspring of materials cannot be plumbed.


We look forward to future scholars' work in expanding and challenging what we have written, for the more that is written about Tejanas, the better our understanding of our entire state's history. Some of these future scholars are still students in our public schools and universities as this book is completed. We support their entry into university teaching, archival research, and public service in the interest of women's history.


The Role of Educators and Tejana History


We likewise envision that this book will foster the study of Mexican American women's history in the state's public schools, where Mexican origin students will shortly become the majority. We believe that young Mexican American female students in particular should be given the opportunity to learn about their predecessors' legacy to them. We therefore urge educators to support the study of Tejana history and to reward it academically. We likewise call on public institutions to create programs that prize Tejana history and bring it before the general public.


Finally, we invite our readers to learn about Tejanas, women whose past and future history is firmly rooted in the place known as Texas.



“No other works which combine so much material on Hispanic women have been published in the past, and I know of none in the offing. . . . This will be an excellent sourcebook for anyone interested in the many Tejanas who overcame adversity to succeed as businesswomen, professionals, educators, and politicians.”
Carolina Castillo Crimm, Associate Professor of History, Sam Houston State University


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