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The Center for Research on Women and Social Justice    Eileen Boris, Director    Department of Feminist Studies
University of California    Santa Barbara, CA 93106    Tel 805.893.8444, line 2    Fax 805.893.8676

Archive: The 4th Annual Hull Chair Lecture on Women and Social Justice - January 26, 2004

2003-2004 Hull Lecturer:

Vicki L. Ruiz

Vicki L. Ruiz


Big Dreams, Rural Schools: Mexican Americans and Public Education, 1870-1950

Vicki L. Ruiz, Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine

January 26, 2004
4:00pm
McCune Conference Room (6020 Humanities and Social Sciences Building)
Reception follows


Rural schools offered Mexican American children more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. They could nurture expectations, aspirations, and even opportunities while simultaneously reminding them of their place as children of Mexican farm workers, miners, and rail hands. Drawing on an array of archival sources, newspapers, secondary literature, and oral narratives, this powerpoint presentation provides a historical overview of education in the lives of rural Mexican American youth from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth. Although beginning with the controversy over public education itself in New Mexico during the 1870s, this talk focuses on the institutional nature of segregation "for the cause of Americanization" as well as two significant legal challenges by Latina/o parents on behalf of their children. Historian Francisco Balderrama contends that at the dawning of the Great Depression "more than 80 percent of the school districts in southern California enrolled Mexicans and Mexican Americans in segregated schools." In 1945, Puerto Rico-born Felícitas Méndez and her Mexican born husband Gonzalo organized other parents in a class action lawsuit against several school districts in then rural Orange County. While Mexican American struggles for educational desegregation remain largely hidden from history, the case of Méndez v. Westminster (1946) would help pave the way for Brown v. Board of Education.

Vicki L. Ruiz is Professor of History and Chicano/Latino Studies at UC Irvine. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford. Her recent book From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in 20th Century America was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 1998. She is also the author of Cannery Women, Cannery Lives. Ruiz also co-edited with Ellen DuBois the influential U.S. women's history's reader, Unequal Sisters, now in its third edition, the co-author of a new U.S. history textbook Created Equal: A Social and Political History of the United States. She and Virginia Sánchez Korrol are co-editors of the forthcoming Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia. She currently serves as interim director of UCIA's Humanities Out There, a community partnership program in which graduate student workshop leaders and undergraduate tutors bring innovative humanities programming to students in the Santa Ana Unified School District and in 2003 received the UCI Humanities Associates Faculty Teaching Award. She is president of the Berkshire Conference on Women Historians and president-elect of the Organization of American Historians. She recently served as a Clinton appointee to the National Humanities Council.

Co-sponsored by the Women's Center, the Department of Black Studies, the Department of History, the Department of Latin American and Iberian Studies, the Department of Chicana/Chicano Studies, the Center for Chicano Studies, the School of Education, and the Labor Studies Focus Group.


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