NINETY-EIGHT YEARS ago today (1916), Emma Tenayuca was born in San Antonio, Texas.
Described by one professor as “a woman people attempted to write out of history,” the sixteen-year-old Mexican American labor activist was arrested for striking against San Antonio’s Finck Cigar Company in 1933. This failed to intimidate her. “I never thought in terms of fear,” she once said. “I thought in terms of justice.”
Tenayuca soon founded two International Ladies’ Garment Workers Unions. In 1938, the twenty-one-year-old led a successful strike by pecan shellers that a marker unveiled in San Antonio in 2011 called “one of the first successful actions in the Mexican American struggle for political and social justice.”