THE VFA PIONEER HISTORIES PROJECT
Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez
December 12, 1925 – June 29, 2021
“The two causes, racism and feminism, cannot honestly be divided, although some would have it otherwise.” – Betita Martínez
It was very exciting to be with all these other people from all over the Southwest. And the thing I remember most was being impressed by the Crusade for Justice, the building and everything they were doing there. Different programs for young people and parents bringing families together and then also after a slight struggle, there was a Woman’s Caucus. It wasn’t exactly warmly received, the idea. But it did happen. And it was interesting to hear from the women who talked about the problems in having any kind of feminist approach to the work.
I had come from New Mexico and it’s a little bit different because New Mexico had very strong women rural leaders in the north who reminded me of the strong rural leaders I had met in Mississippi. Same kind of women, I thought. So, then somebody reported from the Caucus back to the General Assembly and she said, “It was the consensus of the Caucus that we don’t want to be liberated.” Me and Enrique Tovaquez, who was a very wonderful columnist. And there’s a book of her columns out, by the way. She was also there with me. We were both slightly stunned with that report because we didn’t think it was exactly accurate.
But we knew that what she was really saying was we don’t want to be identified with the white women’s Lib movement. We don’t want to be associated with that for reasons including we don’t want to alienate our boyfriends, etc. Back in New Mexico, when I went back there from ’69 until ’76, there was not a lot of debate about it. The Chicana movement and especially not in the north. There was not a strong identification in my view of Chicana’s with the women’s movement as a movement. And I think it’s because of what was said by this person who didn’t want to be liberated.
I think the reason was they really saw [it] as a white thing and an anti-male thing and anti-Chicana community thing, that we can’t divide the men from the women. So, there was a lot of feelings like that that I think held back a strong development in New Mexico. It happened more in other cities, I think. Also, especially in some colleges and universities. I think academic Chicanos were the ones who really pushed a woman’s movement, at least in the early stages.