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Working Women into the Borderlands

Sonia Hernández

Publication Year: 2014

In Working Women into the Borderlands, author Sonia Hernández sheds light on how women’s labor was shaped by US capital in the northeast region of Mexico and how women’s labor activism simultaneously shaped the nature of foreign investment and relations between Mexicans and Americans. As capital investments fueled the growth of heavy industries in cities and ports such as Monterrey and Tampico, women’s work complemented and strengthened their male counterparts’ labor in industries which were historically male-dominated.

As Hernández reveals, women laborers were expected to maintain their “proper” place in society, and work environments were in fact gendered and class-based. Yet, these prescribed notions of class and gender were frequently challenged as women sought to improve their livelihoods by using everyday forms of negotiation including collective organizing, labor arbitration boards, letter writing, creating unions, assuming positions of confianza (“trustworthiness”), and by migrating to urban centers and/or crossing into Texas.

Drawing extensively on bi-national archival sources, newspapers, and published records, Working Women into the Borderlands demonstrates convincingly how women’s labor contributions shaped the development of one of the most dynamic and contentious borderlands in the globe.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Importantly, and I would add, very proudly, Sonia Hernández’s Working Women into the Borderlands is the first book in the Connecting the Greater West series. In so many ways, Hernández’s work embodies the very essence of the series, to explore the changing and growing ways that historians

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pp. xi-xvi

There were many times I thought this book would never come to fruition. It did, partly due to several people who believed in me and kept encouraging me. I owe a great debt to people who took the time to carefully review my work and provide critical and constructive criticism. Many provided valuable assistance...

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Introduction: Norteño History as Borderlands History

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pp. 1-16

As Porfirio Díaz embarked upon his second decade as dictator of Mexico in 1892, Teodora Cepeda, a local campesina from a hacienda in the Nuevo León countryside, traveled to Monterrey in search of a local scribe to assist her in labor matters. Resolved to voice her demands, Teodora presented a...

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Chapter One. Selling the Norteño Borderlands: Capital, Land, and Labor

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pp. 17-34

The modernization agenda carried out by state elites, politicians, and a pro-foreign investment climate fostered by the Díaz regime helped bring to fruition A. W. Gifford’s prediction of a “garden spot” in Tamaulipas. Gifford’s Imogene Mining Company, as well as scores of other foreign enterprises, found...

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Chapter Two. Peasant Women’s Work in a Changing Countryside during the Porfiriato

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pp. 35-60

In 1896, as Alejandro Prieto was completing his first term as governor of Tamaulipas, two campesinas from the southern part of the state left their village in search of work. Residents relied on an extensive social network of communication among area norteños for employment opportunities, and the two...

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Chapter Three. “We cannot suffer any longer from the patrón’s bad treatment”: Everyday Forms of Peasant Negotiation

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pp. 61-82

As the governors of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León—Alejandro Prieto and Bernardo Reyes—delivered eloquent speeches to their constituents about the need to modernize the region by clearing land and building roads and railways, residents of the two states sought to negotiate everyday...

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Chapter Four. (En)Gendering Revolution in the Borderlands: Revolucionarias, Combatants, and Supporters in the Northeast

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pp. 83-106

The numerous handwritten petitions submitted by campesinos themselves or through public scribes and protesting abusive conditions did not yield much success. With fewer than 15 percent of requests for intervention, financial aid, or help securing employment receiving a favorable response, residents...

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Chapter Five. Women’s Labor and Activism in the Greater Mexican Borderlands, 1910–1930

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pp. 107-122

In the tumultuous environment of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Mexico, women heard the rhetoric of revolution and adopted it in order to improve working conditions—on both sides of the border. Because of extensive ties between northeastern Mexico and South Texas, the experiences...

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Chapter Six. Class, Gender, and Power in the Postrevolutionary Borderlands

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pp. 123-140

Seven years after the Revolution ended, Linares resident Rafaela Hernández began working at Refugio García Garza’s Compañía Cigarrera de Linares. Cigarrera de Linares was one of five tabacaleras in that town, and Rafaela was one of more than one hundred cigarreras who labored in the tabacaleras...

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pp. 141-144

As I reflect on the experiences of the tallandera de ixtle Ursula Tapia, the cigarrera Rafaela Hernández, and the jornalera Petra Vásquez, I am bombarded with news about kidnappings and tortures, as well as chilling pictures of decapitated Mexicans. Four women and five men were hanged at a...

Appendix One: Selected Mutual-Aid Societies and Related Collective Organizations in the Mexican Northeast, 1880–1910

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pp. 145-148

Appendix Two: Selected Organizations in Texas Affiliated with the Partido Liberal Mexicano, 1911–1917

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pp. 149-150

Appendix Three: Selected Estatutos (By-Laws) and Artículos of the Unión de Obreras “Fraternidad Femenil” (Xicotencatl, Tamaulipas)

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pp. 151-154


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pp. 155-194


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pp. 195-216


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pp. 217-235

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781623491390
E-ISBN-10: 1623491398
Print-ISBN-13: 9781623490416

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 871258280
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Working Women into the Borderlands

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women in the labor movement -- Mexico, North -- History -- 20th century.
  • Women in the labor movement -- Mexican-American Border Region -- History -- 20th century.
  • Women labor union members -- Mexico, North -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mexican American women labor union members -- Mexican-American Border Region -- History -- 20th century.
  • Economic development -- Mexico, North -- 20th century.
  • Economic development -- Mexican-American Border Region -- 20th century.
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