League of Mexican American Women
The league of Mexican American Women was initially organized in 1973 to fill a void of Latina-serving organizations. At that time, its main focus was to provide leadership training for Latina women in Fresno in professional areas, including education, health, politics, and economic development. They filed Articles of Incorporation in 1978 and received their 501(c3) non-profit exemption documents. The organization’s founding members were women who had many years of experience with other mainstream organizations as volunteers, fundraisers and educators. They also participated in Hispanic organizations whose leadership were mainly males. As members of these organizations, they were usually regulated to an auxiliary role. These women were single parents, grandmothers, and stay-at-home mothers. They recognized their opportunity to have an immediate impact on the lives and careers of Latinas by creating more attractive avenues and focusing on more relevant issues.
During these years, we were experiencing a “feminine revolution” in the general community. It was especially very strong at the universities which included the Chicano Movement. Latinas were anxious to become involved in cultural and social changes. Several of these students joined the League and contributed to the development of several programs. The League’s successes ranged from its signature fashion show and luncheon, to the Adelante Mujer Hispana Conferences and to partnerships with other community based organizations that provided support for Latinas. The League rapidly became a leading Latina organization in the Central Valley and the State. Women from nearby Madera, Visalia, Modesto, Bakersfield and Sacramento called and requested assistance in organizing their own groups. In 1979, League affiliated itself with a national organization; Comision Femenil Mexicana Nacional, Inc. This group had many organizations within several cities in the Los Angeles area, and throughout California. After four years with this organization, League decided that it would be to our benefit to remain independent and would be more effective working on local issues.
In the years after formally organizing, members of the League were recognized by local, and state politicians. Appointments at the State level included; the Commission on the Status for Women, Medical Quality Review Commission, Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice& Delinquency, Advisory Council to the Legal Services Corp., and the California Student Aid Commission. Some examples of local appointments included; the Fresno County Delinquency Prevention Commission, the Fresno County Social Services Advisory Committee, the Fresno City Grievance Advisory Committee, and many others. Many of the women also were invited to serve on a variety of Board of Directors of non-profit organizations. In addition, almost all of the college students who joined League went on to graduate with bachelor, masters, or doctoral degrees. They became professional leaders in their selected careers. And, other members decided to pursue their degree or business careers.
Another goal of the League was to provide support and assistance to the Hispanic community, either through volunteerism or financially. For many years, the League sponsored an annual golf tournament. Originally the funds were awarded to the Fresno County Hospital’s Hispanic Hospice and was called the Esperenza Golf Tournament. This no longer exists. Thereafter, the funds were awarded to Arts Americas.
The Adelante Mujer Conference was held at Fresno City College. This conference brought in middle and high school students, and their mothers. Workshops at this conference included: preparation for college, health issues, effective communication career counseling and mentoring.
Other activities include; Dia de Los Ninos, out of town excursions to museums, scholarship luncheons, and other social events.
As a result of the annual Fiesta Navidena Fashion show, hundreds of students received scholarships to various universities and colleges. Under the direction of Betty Rodriguez, the fashion show has existed for over 40 years. Ms. Rodriguez passed away in 2012. This was an event that she worked on from January to November, without her persistent energy the show may have not continued to this day. It is estimated that League has raised and awarded over $470,000 in scholarships to students attending Fresno State College, Fresno City College, Pacific University and other colleges and universities in the US.
The League of Mexican American Women continues to exist and work in the community. We will celebrate 47 years in 2020.