The first comprehensive biography of a formidable civil rights activist and feminist whose grassroots organizing in Texas made her an influential voice in the fight for equal rights for Mexican Americans.
The essayist Adela Sloss-Vento (1901–1998) was a powerhouse of activism in South Texas’s Lower Rio Grande Valley throughout the Mexican American civil rights movement beginning in 1920 and the subsequent Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s. At last presenting the full story of Sloss-Vento’s achievements, Agent of Change revives a forgotten history of a major female Latina leader.
Bringing to light the economic and political transformations that swept through South Texas in the 1920s as ranching declined and agribusiness proliferated, Cynthia E. Orozco situates Sloss-Vento’s early years within the context of the Jim Crow/Juan Crow era. Recounting Sloss-Vento’s rise to prominence as a public intellectual, Orozco highlights a partnership with Alonso S. Perales, the principal founder of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Agent of Change explores such contradictions as Sloss-Vento’s tolerance of LULAC’s gender-segregated chapters, even though the activist was an outspoken critic of male privilege in the home and a decidedly progressive wife and mother. Inspiring and illuminating, this is a complete portrait of a savvy, brazen critic who demanded reform on both sides of the US-Mexico border.
Liz Carpenter Award for Research in the History of Women, Texas State Historical Association
“Agent of Change presents a compelling argument that Adela Sloss-Vento deserves a place of honor in American history, especially Texas history, as a passionately persistent activist and archivist of the Mexican American civil rights and Chicano movements.”
Lone Star Literary Life
“[Agent of Change] presents a timely critical investigation into one Latinx activist who shaped Texas, US, and women’s history.”
“By writing a biography of Sloss-Vento, Orozco eloquently gives readers an understanding into the everyday life of middle-class Mexican American women who have shaped community concerns into political issues. Adela Sloss-Vento’s biography is first of its kind, this book pushes the field of Latinx history to consider what women’s lives can tell about state and national debates, such as civic engagement, civil rights, and gendered expectations.”
New Books Network: Latino Studies
“Superb...In Agent of Change, Cynthia E. Orozco has marshalled in-depth materials that convincingly spell out how Adela Sloss-Vento took on the powerful and proved herself to be a committed, smart, and tough servant of her people...This essential and timely book reinforces her significance to that cause and to Mexican American history.”
Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“Orozco gives an outspoken, complex activist her due in this compelling biography.”
“Agent of Change is a masterfully written biography that makes a dynamic contribution to Mexican American and Latina/o history. Thanks to Orozco’s work, historians and scholars alike can no longer omit Mexican American women’s importance to Texas and civil rights activities.”
Western Historical Quarterly
“Orozco has an uncanny skill for excavating fragments from long-forgotten archives and using them to challenge tired scholarly generalizations, showing why people whom we long considered marginal were in fact central to the larger narratives of Chicana/o history. We need this book in the fields of Chicana/o, women's, and Texas history; it is simply stunning in its richness.”
Max Krochmal, Texas Christian University, author of Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era
“This study of a crucial, yet overlooked, Mexican American female activist is timely. It will significantly contribute to the larger fields of US civil rights history, Texas history, and Mexican American history, as well as women’s history/studies. Now more than ever, histories such as Sloss-Vento's are crucial, as they remind us of the long presence of Mexican-origin people here and their role in shaping Texas and our nation. ”
Sonia Hernández, Texas A&M University, author of Working Women into the Borderlands