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Whether it be in politics, science, medicine or the arts, Latinas have defied social, cultural, and gender stereotypes throughout many generations and have become pioneers in their respective fields and native countries. In honor of these brave, daring, and at times controversial women, here are 10 Latinas who fought against the odds and became the first in their class:. Although she recalled regular summertime visits to Puerto Rico to see friends and family, her home life in New York was not a happy one.
Her father was an alcoholic who died in his early 40s and her mother kept her emotional distance from her daughter. The family lived in the housing projects, which would later be overrun by gang violence. Still, Sotomayor's mother pushed her children to take their education seriously, which left a deep imprint on Sotomayor, who knew by age 10 that she wanted to be a lawyer. Sotomayor won a scholarship to Princeton University and graduated summa cum laude in and went on to receive her law degree from Yale.
In Sotomayor served as an assistant district attorney, which eventually paved her way to becoming a U. District Court judge, appointed by George H. Under Bill Clinton's administration, Sotomayor would make her way to the U.
Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in , and a little over a decade later, Barack Obama nominated her to the highest court in the land. In Sotomayor would make history as the first Latina to become a U. Supreme Court Justice. Since then, she has built her reputation on being an advocate for criminal justice reform and women's rights. Born in , Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno has built an award-winning career in film, television and theater that has spanned over seven decades.
Famous for her supporting roles in the film adaptations of the King and I and West Side Story , Moreno would earn herself an Oscar for the latter, making her the first Latina to achieve such a feat. Her multitude of credits as an actress, singer and dancer would later result to one of her biggest crowning achievements in She is the first Latina to be elevated to PEGOT status, a small group of entertainers who have won a Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award.
As the third wife, Isabel, known to her countrymen as "Isabelita," would serve as her husband's vice president and First Lady during his third presidential term, starting in However, just a year in office, Juan suffered from a series of heart attacks and died on July 1, Isabel took over as president, and while her nation and political allies and even some of her husband's enemies initially showed support for her, she quickly fell out of favor after she issued a government-run suppression campaign against her adversaries, including a string of political murders and anti-left-wing policy measures and purges.
In Isabel was forced out by a military coup and remained under house arrest before being allowed to move to Spain. In an Argentinian judge issued an order for her arrest for the disappearance of an activist in , but Spanish courts refused to extradite her, citing the charges didn't fall under the category of crimes against humanity. Born in Los Angeles in , Ellen Ochoa immersed herself in the sciences, graduating from San Diego State University with a bachelor's in physics and later from Stanford University with a master's in science and a doctorate in electrical engineering As a doctorate student, she focused her studies primarily on optical systems involving high tech space exploration, which eventually led her into the NASA space program in Two years later, Ochoa became the first Latina woman to fly into space, which occurred aboard the shuttle Discovery.
Ochoa would complete a total of four space missions during her career at NASA and would make history once again when she became the first Latina director of the agency's Johnson Space Center in Despite being born into poverty and discriminated against for being born of partial African descent, Afro-Dominican Evangelina Rodriguez became the first woman from the Dominican Republic to earn her medical degree. Born in , Rodriguez was raised by her grandmother and diligently worked her way through school and earned her education, despite the social and cultural challenges of being a poor half-Black female who was a product of wedlock.
She received her medical degree from the University of the Dominican Republic in and began building her career in small towns and giving medical care to the poorest citizens. After scrounging her earnings for many years, Rodriguez furthered her expertise by studying gynecology and pediatrics in France in and graduated four years later. She returned to her country and cared for her patients, while also becoming a political firebrand, advocating for women's rights and issues, such as birth control, and speaking out against dictator Rafael Trujillo.
Tragic love, childhood, piety, sadness, bitterness and the politics of the times brought forth the lyrical poetry that defined Chilean poet, diplomat and educator Gabriela Mistral. While working on her poetry as a young woman, Mistral also served as a village school teacher. An intense romance with a railway worker who would end up killing himself, was one of several tragedies throughout her life that would inspire her poetry, and it was her sonnets memorializing the dead, Sonetos de la muerte , in that would make her famous throughout Latin America.
As an artist and intellectual who gained international fame for her poetry, Mistral was invited to travel the world as a cultural ambassador for the League of Nations and lived in France and Italy in the mids to early s. She lectured and served as an educator throughout the United States, Europe and Cuba and received honorary degrees at renowned universities. Another Chilean artist, Isabel Allende , would follow in Mistral's footsteps to become "the world's most widely read Spanish-language author.
Born in Peru in , Allende would gain international recognition for her magical realism in novels such as The House of Spirits and City of Beasts. Drawing from historical events her father's first cousin was Chilean president Salvador Allende , who was overthrown in a military coup in and her own experience, Allende honors the stories of women in mythical fashion and is credited to have transformed non-fiction literature.
Among her many awards, Allende received Chile's National Literature Prize in and was honored by President Barack Obama with a Presidential Medal of Freedom in as well as an honorary degree from Harvard that same year. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in her office in Washington, D. Political activism ran in Ilena Ros-Lehtinen's family. Born in Cuba in and later immigrating to the United States at age eight, Ros-Lehtinen grew up with an anti-Castro activist father and memories of escaping Fidel Castro's regime.
Focusing her career in education, Ros-Lehtinen earned both her a bachelor's degree in and a master's degree in at Florida International University. In she received her doctorate in education from the University of Miami. While operating a private school in Miami in the early 80s, Ros-Lehtinen was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, becoming the first Latina to accomplish this. She continued her groundbreaking streak by becoming the first Latina to serve in the state senate and in , the first Latina and first Cuban-American to serve in the United States Congress as a member of the House of Representatives.
Starting in , she also became the first female to ever manage a regular standing committee, the Committee on Foreign Affairs. As a moderate Republican, Ros-Lehtinen was considered one of the most popular bipartisan politicians before retiring her House seat in Known as the "Voice of Hispanic America," Salinas recently retired from her role at Univision but continues to focus on her philanthropy, which includes education, promoting women's media, and increasing voter registration within her community. She helped develop the Ixcateopan, Guerrero archaeological project, an archive of her country's history, and the National Library of Anthropology and History.
These political pioneers broke racial and gender barriers during their time as members of the House of Representatives. Bessie Coleman was among the African American pilots and astronauts who paved the way for others to explore the skies. These paved the way for other female artists through their paintings, sculptures, films, photos, and illustrations.
These Black athletes broke barriers, represented their communities and made history with their impressive athletic skills. Many tales have been told about Pocahontas, but not all of them are true. Learn about some of the notable people who survived or perished when the "unsinkable ship" struck an iceberg in April The work of these women was overlooked during their lifetime with men receiving recognition instead. Barack Obama may have been the first Black president elected to the White House, but many tried before him.
In honor of these brave, daring, and at times controversial women, here are 10 Latinas who fought against the odds and became the first in their class: Sonia Sotomayor - First Latina U. By Eudie Pak. By Brad Witter.Any hispanic females
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