"Woman Power Will Stop Those Grapes": Chicana Organizers and Middle-Class Female Supporters in the Farm Workers' Grape Boycott in Philadelphia, 1969-1970
- Journal of Women's History
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 7, Number 4, Winter 1995
- pp. 6-36
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// Woman Power Will Stop Those Grapes": Chicana Organizers and Middle-Class Female Supporters in the Farm Workers' Grape Boycott in Philadelphia, 1969-1970 Margaret Rose //T am a farm worker, born and raised in California. I am here in JL Philadelphia coordinating the international boycott of table grapes," announced Hope [Esperanza] LÃ³pez when she arrived in Philadelphia in February 1969 with two of her five children and several others to reinforce the boycott initiated by farm workers against Delano table grape producers in 1965. "The two girls that came with me," she continued , "are also from California, also farm workers and both walked out on... a strike from two... ranches four years ago."1 Hope LÃ³pez and her two assistants, Antonia (Tonia) Saludado and Carolina Franco, represent examples of the many Chicanas and Mexicanas who were politicized and unionized during the 1960s by the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC), the precursor to the United Farm Workers Union (UFW).2 These female boycotters launched a successful appeal to the local community, particularly to women in the "City of Brotherly Love," to support the farm workers' campaign for social justice during the turbulent struggles for civil, political, and economic rights in the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. Their actions offer a vivid contrast to the stereotypical view of Chicanas as socially conservative, homebound wives and mothers who demonstrated no interest or involvement in activities outside of the immediate family circle.3 Scholarship on Chicanas has begun to create a more complex historical portrayal of them as community builders, social activists, workers, and union members.4 As yet, however, the achievements of female UFWOC organizers rarely appear in historical writing on the UFW.5 This anonymity they share with many other women of color who were significant contributors to a contemporary movement, the black struggle for civil rights.6 Chicanas and Mexicanas figured significantly in UFW boycotts. "Approximately 200 persons are on the grape boycott," noted the union newspaper, El Malcriado, in 1970, "of this total about half are women."7 The majority of these women served in boycotts as part of a family unit. For example, Albert and Mary Elena Rojas directed the Pittsburgh effort, Â© 1995 Journal of Women's History, Vol. 7 No. 4 (Winter) 1995 Margaret Rose 7 Alfredo and Juanita Herrera managed the Denver boycott, and Julio and Fina HernÃ¡ndez coordinated the Cleveland operation. Filipinos Andy and Luming Imuran administered the Washington-Baltimore venture, and Manuel and Marcia SÃ¡nchez organized the Miami campaign. This family pattern of boycott activism has only recently begun to receive scholarly attention. My analysis of the Washington, D.C. boycott, headed by Gilbert and Esther Padilla froml973 to 1975, showed that although women made a critical contribution to the boycotts, the sexual division of labor gave more prominence to their husbands' leadership and community-organizing activities. As a result Chicanas' commitment to the boycott remained obscured because they juggled domestic concerns and child rearing with picket line duty, participation in demonstrations, and work in the local union boycott offices.8 Yet in a few cases, Chicanas emerged as independent boycott directors in their own right. This occurred as a result of the shortage of union volunteers to assume these responsibilities. The lack of a trained professional staff and limited resources contributed to the decentralized approach to the boycott which by default allowed more opportunities for women to rise to these positions and more freedom for both women and men to experiment with community-based organizing strategies . For Mexican-American women, in particular, these circumstances provided a new space to express a gendered resistance to the status quo based on their own views and experiences. Oftentimes female administrators were unmarried, widowed, or divorced, and they were usually young adults. Out of forty-three boycott coordinators in major cities in June 1969, thirty-nine were men and five were women.9 Dolores Huerta headed the New York effort, Jessica Govea managed the Montreal organization, Maria Saudado ran the Indianapolis office, Peggy McGivern coordinated the Buffalo operation, and Hope LÃ³pez directed the Philadelphia campaign.10 All UFW boycotts contribute to our understanding of Chicana activism in the farm worker movement...