"Educate a woman, and you educate a family.”
Jovita Idar was born on September 7, 1885 in Laredo Texas. She was one of eight children born to Jovita and Nicasio Idar who published La Cronica, a Spanish Language newspaper that exposed not only segregation, but other injustices endured by Mexican Texans early in the 20th Century. This included lynchings, lest we think that was an issue solely for Blacks in America.
She attended the Holding Institute (a Methodist school) in Laredo, from which she earned a teaching certificate in 1903. She then taught at a small school in Ojuelos. Inadequate equipment and poor conditions, as well as her inability to improve them, frustrated her, so she resigned and joined two of her brothers as writers for her father's weekly newspaper, becoming a journalist and working tirelessly for social change.
9n 1911, she and her family organized the Congreso Mexicanista, which was a convention to discuss racism, the need for teaching Spanish in schools, women’s rights and to protect the lives and property of Tejanos, a term for Mexican Americans living in Texas. During the gathering, women, some for the very first time, participated publicly not only as participants but as speakers at the auspicious political gathering. It was here that the League of Mexican woman was born. It was most likely the first attempt in Mexican American history to form a feminist social movement. Jovita was the first president and made their primary goal to provide education for poor children.
Durning the Mexican Revolution in 1913, at the battle of Nuevo Laredo, Idar traveled with her friend Leonor Villegas deMagnon, to Mexico. They crossed the border to care for the inured. Later she she joined La Cruz Blanca, a medical group similar to the Red Cross, and traveled in northern Mexico with revolutionary forces.
When she returned to Laredo later that year she joined the staff of the newspaper El Progreso and soon offended the United States Army and Texas Rangers with an editorial protesting President Woodrow Wilson's dispatch of United States troops to the border. She barred their entrance standing firmly in the newspaper’s doorway when Texas Rangers approached en masse, to keep them from shutting it down. She was a brave and powerful woman. Eventually, the paper was shut down and she returned to run La Cronica, her family paper, after her father died.
In 1917 Idár married Bartolo Juárez. The couple moved to San Antonio, where Jovita Juárez became an active member of the Democratic Party, established a free kindergarten, worked as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking patients in a county hospital, and was an editor of El Heraldo Christiano, a publication of the Rio Grande Conference of the Methodist Church. She and her husband had no children. She died in San Antonio in 1946.
For more about Jovita Idár
The Federico Idár and Idár Family Papers, 1879–1838, are held in the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin. They contain correspondence, photographs, printed materials, and artifacts that document the lives of the Idár family of Laredo and San Antonio.