Womens Suffrage Movement-1915

New Mexico's Anglo Protestant women were late to organize influential women's clubs, which were not started until the 1890s. However, this movement left out large sectors of women in the state who were of Indian or Mexican American ancestry. The Catholic Church, openly opposed to women's suffrage in the 19th century, also tempered support for an early suffrage campaign. The state's constitution, ratified in 1910, posed the most formidable obstacle to early suffrage. The State Federation of Women's Clubs won the right to school suffrage. In turn, full voting rights to Hispanic men were guaranteed. But the constitution required a daunting three-fourths majority of voters in each county to amend the suffrage provision in the future. This legal barrier dashed any hope of winning suffrage by popular vote, which had been the key to success in most other western states. New Mexico women focused on national suffrage politics instead. Alice Paul's militant Congressional Union (CU), the forerunner of the Woman's Party, played a leading role in the state's late-blooming movement. By 1915, the CU enjoyed a committed network of support, especially among middle-class and elite Anglo club women in urban areas. "They say it is very difficult to get the Spanish ladies out, but as I have one on the program to speak in Spanish, I think they will come–and their husbands as well," reported the CU's lead organizer, Ella St. Clair Thompson to Alice Paul in 1915. Her efforts to reach out to Spanish-speaking women paid off, especially among elite women relatives of influential Mexican-American politicians. Adelina Otero-Warren, the niece of the popular head of the state's Republican Party, helped lead Mexican American women into the political mainstream. Bilingual flyers and speeches in Spanish at public rallies brought support for suffrage among both men and women in the Hispanic communities. Otero-Warren enjoyed such a loyal following that she was chosen by Alice Paul to lead the state Congressional Union in 1917. Her mission was to bombard the New Mexico congressional delegation to win their support in the battle to pass the "Susan B. Anthony" (19th) Amendment. With her help the amendment passed through Congress and to the states for ratification. New Mexico women won full suffrage at last with the final ratification by the state legislature of the amendment in 1920. Women voted with enthusiasm in New Mexico, with participation rates of Mexican-American women exceeding that of Anglo women or men. Nevertheless, the 19th Amendment did not guarantee citizenship or the vote for the state's large population of Pueblos, Navajos, Hopis and other Native American women, who along with men from those communities still could not vote either.

Women's Suffrage Movement-1915

The struggle to gain the voting rights for women came to be known as the "suffrage momement." In spite of efforts by suffrage organizers after 1915, New Mexico's legislature was one of the last to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

Nina Otero