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Jovita Idár

(1885-1946)

Teacher, journalist and political activist

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Education

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Teacher, journalist and political activist Jovita Idár praised women’s suffrage in her father’s weekly newspaper in Laredo,  La Crónica, where she connected the vote to long standing demands for Mexican American civil rights. She was part of a family that spoke out against the educational and social discrimination that ethnic Mexicans faced in Texas. While she is most well known for her work in Laredo, she spent the last half of her life in San Antonio’s Westside, where she continued to advocate for women’s rights, civil rights, and provided education, food and clothing to her community.


Jovita Idár was born in Laredo in 1885. Her father, Nicasio Idar, was born in Port Isabel, Texas, and her mother Jovita Vivero was from San Luis Potosi, Mexico. They met on the border, married and had nine children. Nicasio worked as a yardmaster in the railroad yards of Nuevo Leon, where he organized workers in the city of Acambaro. According to his son Aquilino, in 1890 Nicasio formed the first union of railroad workers in Mexico, La Orden Suprema de Empleados Ferrocarrileros Mexicanos. Nicasio was able to leave railroad work and he eventually became publisher of the newspaper La Crónica in Laredo. The newspaper featured stories on the struggles of ethnic Mexicans, including educational and social discrimination, the loss of Mexican culture and the Spanish language, and lynchings. Three of his children– Clemente, Jovita and Eduardo, would continue to advocate for human and civil rights through journalism.


As a young girl, Jovita benefited from growing up in a middle class family with access to a good education. She attended the Laredo Seminary, where she learned English, and was also educated at the Domínguez Institute, where she was mentored by Professor Simón G. Domínguez. Jovita was trained as a teacher, earning her teaching certificate in 1903. She then taught in a small town called Los Ojuelos, in southwestern Webb County. She was angered by the lack of resources and poor classroom conditions, and also with the curriculum that did not educate Mexican children about their history and heritage. She also published a weekly bilingual educational magazine called El Estudiante.


Eventually Jovita resigned in order to become a journalist, where she felt she could encourage more social change. She began to work at La Crónica with her family. The family faced significant danger because of their activism. Jovita’s brother Federico was assassinated, and her brother Clemente received death threats. In spite of these challenges, the Idárs continued their social justice work. In 1911, after the brutal lynching of 14 year old Antonio Gómez in Thorndale Texas, her family organized El Primer Congreso Mexicanista, a conference to discussthe multiple grievances of ethnic Mexicans. This organization is credited with launching the Mexican American civil rights movement. Jovita helped create La Liga Femenil Mexicanista, an organization that advocated for women’s suffrage, provided food, clothing and education for poor children, and hosted literary and theatrical productions to raise money for the community. This league is one of the earliest known efforts of Mexican American women to unite for social and political causes. Jovita became the league’s first president. She consistently advocated for women’s rights.

"Working women know their rights and proudly rise to face the struggle. The hour of their degradation has passed... They are no longer men’s servants but their equals, their partners.”

— Jovita Idár in “Debejamos trabajar,” La Crónica, December 7, 1911

 

"Mexican children in Texas need an education.... There is no other means to do it but ourselves, so that we are not devalued and humiliated by the strangers who surround us."

— Jovita Idár, “Por la Raza: La Niñez Mexicana en Texas,” La Crónica, August 10, 1911

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Jovita Idár at El Progreso newspaper, 1914 [postcard]
Jovita Idár at El Progreso newspaper, 1914 [postcard]

Jovita Idár was a writer at El Progreso newspaper, Laredo, TX, 1914

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Jovita Idár at El Progreso newspaper, 1914 [postcard]
Jovita Idár at El Progreso newspaper, 1914 [postcard]

Jovita Idár was a writer at El Progreso newspaper, Laredo, TX, 1914

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Jovita Idár and members of Union of Stone Mason and Bricklayers, Laredo, Texas, ca. 1915
Jovita Idár and members of Union of Stone Mason and Bricklayers, Laredo, Texas, ca. 1915

Jovita Idár and members of the Union of Stone Masons and Bricklayers (Union Local de Albaniles). On the platform are (l. to r.): Jovita Idar, Professor Simon Dominguez, and his daughter.

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Jovita Idár at El Progreso newspaper, 1914 [postcard]
Jovita Idár at El Progreso newspaper, 1914 [postcard]

Jovita Idár was a writer at El Progreso newspaper, Laredo, TX, 1914

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Helaine Victoria Press, Jovita Idar (1885-1946) [postcard], 1986. W075_029, Feminist Postcard Collection, Archives for Research on Women and Gender. Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University.

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084-0599, General Photograph Collection, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections

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Helaine Victoria Press, Jovita Idar (1885-1946) [postcard], 1986. W075_029, Feminist Postcard Collection, Archives for Research on Women and Gender. Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University.