Gary’s Glimpses: Historical women leaders, including those in Rio Rancho - Albuquerque Journal

Gary’s Glimpses: Historical women leaders, including those in Rio Rancho

Gary Herron

It’s called New Mexico History Day, but nobody can tell you what day that is.

It’s more of a celebration of the state’s history and it’s got two divisions: the Junior Division is for students in grades 6-8, while the Senior Division is for grades 9-12. There are five categories in which students may submit entries: documentary, exhibit, performance, website and paper.

The celebration is part of the National History Day organization.

National History Day’s mission?

“The future of democracy depends on an inspired, thoughtful and informed citizenry,” according to the organization’s website. “Historical understanding is crucial to that process. National History Day teaches essential historical accuracy that motivates students to secure the future of democracy.”

This year’s theme in New Mexico is “Communication in History: The Key to Understanding.”

That said, the New Mexico Humanities Council recently sent me — no, I’m not a contestant in the project competition — a 92-page book, “Herstory: Women in American History,” in conjunction with the student competition. It’s obviously seeking students to take more of an interest in what women have done for the U.S.

After all, there’s a woman vying to be the next vice president of the country, and another seeking a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The book has a wealth of suggestions and ideas for any student interested in famous women and their contributions. (The book is yours if you are the first to drop by our office and ask for it. It practically does a project for you.)

I looked into the book and found the names of 20 great American women. As much as I’m a U.S. history buff, I only recognized the names of five of them: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Clara Barton, Annie Oakley, Shirley Chisholm and Sally Ride.

The one I’m most familiar with, namely through my passion for the Old West, is Annie Oakley; I recently read a biography about her.

Yes, I agree; that’s pretty dismal. How many of the remainder are you familiar with?

They are Anne Marbury Hutchinson, Mercy Otis Warren, Sojourner Truth, Dorothea Lynde Dix, Juliette Gordon Low, Ida Wells-Barrnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, Frances Perkins, Jeannette Rankin, Alice Paul, Marian Anderson, Fannie Lou Hamer, Maria Tallchief, Patsy Takemoto Mink and Dolores Huerta.

Many of them are activists; you know Sally Ride was an astronaut, and Low founded the Girl Scouts while Barton founded the American Red Cross.

Huerta is the only one still alive and, coincidentally, the only one born in New Mexico. Here’s the 411 on her, thanks to Wikkipedia: “Huerta was born on April 10, 1930, in the mining town of Dawson. (She was) the second child and only daughter of Juan Fernández and Alicia Chávez. When Huerta was young, she would hear her father tell stories about union organizing. After her parents divorced when she was 3 years old, she seldom saw her father. He stayed in New Mexico, and served in the state legislature in 1938…

“Her mother’s generous actions during Dolores’s childhood provided the foundation for her own non-violent, strongly spiritual stance. … Huerta’s community activism began when she was a student at Stockton High School. Huerta was active in numerous school clubs … and remembered a school teacher accusing her of stealing another student’s work and, as a result, giving her an unfair grade, an act she considers to be rooted in racial bias. Having experienced marginalization during childhood because she was Hispanic, Huerta grew up with the belief that society needed to be changed…

“In 1955, Huerta along with Fred Ross co-founded and organized the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization, which fought for economic improvements for Latinx/Mexican/Chicano migrant farm workers.”

Huerta would make a good subject for students, namely because of the New Mexico connection.

Now, at the age of 90, she’s running for mayor in San Diego!

But here are some other suggestions, if you want to follow the lives of New Mexico women: New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rio Rancho Public Schools Superintendent Sue Cleveland, any of the numerous female principals within RRPS or maybe one of the four females on the RRPS Board of Education: Catherine Cullen, Wynne Coleman, Noreen Scott or Amanda Galbraith (a 2000 graduate of Rio Rancho High School).

As a journalist, I can pass along this: It’s a lot easier to interview someone still alive than anyone deceased.

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