Ruth "Rhea" Mojica Hammer and Warner Saunders

Moving Latinas beyond Bella, Betty and bra burning

For many Latinas and women under 40, feminism is associated with “bra burners,” a misnomer that has become part of the narrative of the women’s liberation movement of the ’60s and ‘70s. Coupled with the elevation of three white women — Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem — as the standard bearers of modern feminism, it’s easy to see why many young Latinas don’t know the contributions of women of color or the history of the movement. I can speak to those rich contributions because I saw them up close as the daughter of a fearlessly liberated woman, Ruth “Rhea” Mojica Hammer. In the early ’70s, my mother was a Latina pioneer in Chicago television and politics. She co-hosted two community-based TV shows, and she was the first Latino to run for congressional office in Illinois.