Below are five Hispanic women who have changed history; to help students learn about each of them, explore their stories together. Discuss how their achievements have changed our lives, and for each historical figure, have students consider questions like:
- What do you admire most about each individual?
- What challenges do you think she had to face in her career?
- What issues or topics was each person most passionate about?
Once you’ve discussed the material in your classrooms, don’t forget to come back and tell us how it went. Be sure to share your successes, challenges, and best practices!
Sonia Maria Sotomayor was the first Hispanic judge to ever be nominated to the United States Supreme Court in 2009. After completing her Bachelor’s degree from Princeton and her law degree from Yale, she went on to a successful law career with the New York County District Attorney’s office as well as numerous public service roles with groups like the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. She is known for her decisions in cases related to civil rights and constitutional law.
Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space in 1983. She joined NASA shortly after completing both a master’s degree and a doctorate from Stanford. While Ms. Ochoa is perhaps most famous for her missions aboard Discovery, Atlantis, and the International Space Station (ISS), her work developing optical systems for object recognition has been essential to NASA’s research on Mars.
Cecilia Munoz served as part of the Obama Administration from 2009 to 2017, first as the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs (2009-2012), and then as the Director of the Domestic Policy Council (2012-2017). Ms. Muñoz has been a tireless advocate for the Hispanic community, from her days as a Senior Vice President at policy organization The National Council of La Raza to her current work with New America, a non-partisan public policy think tank.
Isabel Allende is a Chilean writer famous for her intensely personal books that have chronicled the lives of Hispanics—most notably the plight of Chilean families living under the Pinochet regime in her book The House of the Spirits. She won the Chilean National Prize for Literature in 2010, and in 2014, she was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
Dolores Huerta is a social activist who has been working to support the Hispanic community since the 1950s. She co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Cesar Chavez in 1960, where she led farm workers to successfully organize and collectively bargain for better working conditions. She has been instrumental in lobby and legislating issues ranging from her successful 1960 efforts to allow California driver’s exams in Spanish to her advocacy for the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act.
Related blog post: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: 5 Latino Men Who Inspire Us