Texas Women's History Month: The Voice of the Working Poor

Mar 15, 2017

Emma Tenayuca was arrested for the first time at the age of 16 after joining a picket line of workers striking against the Finck Cigar Company.

Tenacious labor leader and educator Emma Tenayuca was born in San Antonio in 1916. With her family and neighbors strongly affected by the privations of the Great Depression, she joined labor protests on behalf of the working poor. She was arrested for the first time at the age of 16 after joining a picket line of workers striking against the Finck Cigar Co.

 

Involved with several union and women’s groups, Tenayuca organized protests following the beating of Mexican migrants by U.S. border patrol officers in 1937 and was arrested several more times participating in labor strikes and protests. Tenayuca eventually joined the Communist Party, and in 1938, married a party leader. The next year, she was scheduled to speak at a rally for which legendary Mayor Maury Maverick had granted a permit, but when an anti-Communist mob caused a riot, Tenayuca was effectively blacklisted and run out of town.

 

After pursuing higher education opportunities in Houston and San Francisco, Tenayuca returned to San Antonio as an educator in the 1960s, inspiring generations until her death in 1982.

This month, KUT is partnering with the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month. Every day, we'll bring you a short feature spotlighting a historic woman, movement, or group of women in Texas.