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.
"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