Fight in the Fields, Through the Role of Women (Jessica Vargas)

The objective of the lesson is to teach students about the struggle of farm workers specifically through the lens of women, and analyze the roles they took in the movement.

Students must first be able to understand the farm worker movement itself. They must become informed of the contribution to society that it led to and what the struggle for the workers was as well as their tactics and motifs. It is important for students to understand that within the farm worker movement women took upon two different roles, some women took on a more traditional role which meant that they were engaged in more underground subtle, less visible organizing. Other women on the other hand took on a less traditional female role in which they were openly active in the movement. It is important for the students for example to be exposed to the contribution of Dolores Huerta within the movement, as well as understand her character, which was essential to the movement itself. Students should be able to distinguish between the traditional and non-traditional roles of Mexican culture, and how that translates into the movement. Specifically how men within the movement felt about the non-traditional ways of women, with the example of Cesar Chavez’s response to Huertas’ character and way she carried out family values.

Essential Understanding:
For women to be leaders of the Farm worker movement barriers of gender roles had to be broken and some assumed non-traditional roles in order to achieve this.

Essential Questions:
1. As the contribution and character of women involved in the movement are analyzed, what was the importance of women in the Farm workers struggle?
2. Who were the traditional versus the non-traditional? What is the traditional role of women and how was that being questioned or contradicted as well as endorsed in this particular movement?
How did being non-traditional versus traditional change the contribution of women within the farm worker movement, how were their experiences different?
3. How was Dolores’ character and personality important to her leading role and how did they differ from that of Helen Chavez. What were the differing roles that both women held within the movement?
4. How were women involved in the struggle perceived?

An introduction to the Farm Worker Movement: Chicano! A PBS Documentary Episode 2: The Struggle in the Fields
Diverse Roles of Women:
Cesar Chavez can be known as the visible leader, and Dolores Huerta as the “hidden” one. Metaphorically he was vehicle and she was the engine. It was not common for people to acknowledge the contribution that Dolores Huerta gave to the Farm Workers Association and the movement in general. In 1962 Cesar Chavez asked Dolores Huerta to be co founder of the Farm Workers Association because he was aware of her leadership skills, her powerful character, her intellectual toughness, and her self-assuredness. In order to fully understand the Farm Workers struggle and that of Cesar Chavez, we must also understand that of Dolores Huerta. Dolores Huerta can be seen as the passionate strong leader, a non-traditional Mexicana. One of her greatest skills that were very helpful to the movement was her negotiating skill. “ To understand the inner strengths of the union is to understand the strength, drive, and the many personalities of Huerta” 1 It was also common for Cesar and Huerta to dispute over strategy and personalities, stubbornness and being opinionated were two qualities that both possessed. Dolores Huerta was very independent and held a strong personality.

Huerta deviates from the traditional model of Mexican women. Historian Margaret Rose concludes that what makes Huerta non-traditional is her combativeness and competitiveness. A traditional Mexican woman can be an activist, but she still must be a housewife first, she can be an organizer but not a leader. Rose States “Huerta’s union activism is atypical. She rebelled against the conventional constraints upon women’s full participation in trade union activism, competing directly with male colleagues in the UFW” 2Helen Chavez on the other hand divides her role between her family and her activism, and quietly protest behind her husband never putting anything before her family role. Huerta for this reason was constantly criticized, as she would leave her children in the care of others to continue her work with the union. Huerta broke the boundaries of women activists that traditionally worked behind the scenes. It was her attitude that helped break the gender and sexual stereotypes of women, and all together brought equality within the union. Chavez took on the traditional Mexican woman role while Huertas’ style mirrored that of a male model of organizing. Both women and males including Chavez often critiqued the choices that Huerta made, allegedly neglecting her children, and at her independence. Luis Valdez, artist, producer, and head of Teatro Campesino, says of Dolores,3

“What dazzled my radicalized university-trained Chicano mind was that she led through persuasion and personal example, rather than intimidation, and that she was one hell of an organizer. People tend to forget that the 1960s were the sexist dark ages, even in the Chicano movement, as we called it, but Dolores was already way out in front. She was a woman, a Mexican-American, a Chicana cutting swath of revolutionary action across the torpidity of the San Joaquin Valley”

Other female organizers for example Jessie de la Cruz explain how difficult it was for female organizers dealing with the old customs of Mexican culture. It is stated that some men were reluctant to take orders from female organizers because as it was in traditional Mexican customs the husband made decisions, gave orders while the wife and children obey. 4 The way that the organization was formatted created a division of labor along gender lines. With said strategy, the women including mothers and daughters had a different role within the organizing as well as a different experience then that of the men including husbands, fathers, and sons. Typical roles that were assigned to women included answering phones, directing mail, running office equipment and other secretary work, while men typically made public appearances and speeches. Work for women also included domestic skills being used to serve the boycott. For example some women shopped cooked and cleaned so other women could perform the office duties, the males on the other hand men held more administrative duties. “In contrast to Chicanas and Mexicanas at the rank-and-file level, their husbands exerted a more public and readily recognized presence in the boycott. The family model of social activism gave the male head of household more prominence, authority, and responsibility.” 4

White Board or Post It Self Stick Easel Pads
Chicano! PBS Documentary Chicano! PBS Documentary
Dolores Huerta & Cesar Chavez in Sacramento. NCPB/KQED News. archival news film. 4/10/1966. Dolores Huerta Speech
Copies of the “corridos” or ballads of both Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta and the “Mujeres Valientes “ by Los Lobos
El Corrido de Cesar Chavez, or “The Ballad of Cesar Chavez” El Corrido de Cesar Chavez, or “The Ballad of Cesar Chavez”

Los Lobos “Corrido De Dolores Huerta # 39” lyrics Los Lobos “Corrido De Dolores Huerta # 39” lyrics

Lyrics to Bold Women “Mujeres Valientes” Lyrics to Bold Women “Mujeres Valientes”

Corrido de Dolores Huerta Luis Orozco Corrido de Dolores Huerta Luis Orozco

Day 1
Before the lecture starts it would be interesting to know what the students know about the UFW and the farm worker movement. Asking the question “what comes to your mind when you think of the UFW.
Activity 1: As a background on the movement, showing the Chicano! Documentary will give students an overview of the history of the movement and the struggle of the farm workers. This will take up one class period, however if there is time the teacher can have students discuss the main points of the video. If there is no time left then time should be allocated in the next class session to discuss the video and the importance of the UFW and the struggle of the farm workers. To start discussion asking the students basic questions such as who were the farm workers? What did they seek to achieve? And what was their struggle for?
Day 2
Activity 2: After the students are given the introduction and are showed the video and once discussion over the video is over have the students divide into groups. Each group will be given easel pads and markers. Have the students discuss the traditional and non-traditional roles of women in the Mexican culture and other cultures for that matter. Show students the video of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez in Sacramento. Once the video is over have them say the qualities of a good leader/speaker that they see in both Cesar and Dolores. Have them do a T chart with these characteristics. Then have them create a Venn diagram with the type of jobs that both types of women would carry out as part of the UFW and the farm workers struggle. They can place Helen Chavez and Dolores Huerta in the categories, which they fit. Have students reflect on whether they know of any other movement or case In which women are to take on such roles, if not they could also have the option of researching occasions in which this occurred. Once each group is done, have each of them present their findings to the entire class. Once all groups have gone have students reflect on what they have learned from each other or what they found really interesting from this activity. This will serve as a conclusion to the class as well activity.
Day 3
Activity 3: By now students have had an intro to the topic and discussed the role of women in the movement. This activity essentially seeks to have them analyze how the women were portrayed differently in the media both how they were perceived positively and how they were at times excluded. This activity gives students an image of how for example Dolores Huerta is not always given the credit she deserves for being the cofounder of the Farm workers Association alongside Cesar Chavez. Before they split up into groups however ask for a volunteer who will later write answers on the board as each group presents their answers.
The students should be given a copy of: 1) The Ballad of Cesar Chavez by Felipe Cantu any Agustin Lira 2) Corrido De Dolores Huerta #39 Lyrics by Los Lobos, 3) Corrido de Dolores Huerta by José Luis Orozco, and 4) “Mujeres Valientes” by Los Lobos
Student will then be divided into groups of four by the teacher. Once in their groups students will read and analyze the lyrics.
The following questions should be written on the board to have students discuss:
1. What is something interesting, in regards to the language used, that you find in the first set of lyrics (Ballad of Cesar Chavez)
2. Why do you think it is common for some to consider Cesar as the sole initiator of the Farm Workers Association, and the leader of the UFW and the farm worker struggle?
3. How is Dolores portrayed in the lyrics?
4. Who were the “valiant” women and how are they portrayed? How does this relate to Dolores and other women from the UFW?
Give the student around 20-30 minutes to discuss, and then have them come back to a class discussion and have them share their answers out loud. The volunteer then will jot the ideas down on the board.
To wrap up the lecture have students write a summary/ reflection on the importance of the social justice movement, the experience of women and have them consider a change in their school/community that they would like to see change. This assignment is take home and should be turned in the following class session.
Additional Sources:
Garcia, Richard; Griswold del Castillo, Richard. Cesar Chavez Trimph of Spirit Chapter 4 p.60. University of Oklahoma Press. 1995
Rose, Margaret. Traditional and Nontraditional Patterns of Female Activism in the United Farm Workers of America, 1962 to 1980. University of Nebraska Press. Stable Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1, Las Chicanas (1990). April 12, 2012
Garcia, Richard A. “Dolores Huerta: Woman, Organizer, and Symbol”, California History Vol. 72, No. 1, Women in California History (Spring, 1993), pp. 56-71. April 12, 2012
Margaret Rose (1990): “From the fields to the picket line: Huelga women and the boycott,” 1965–1975, Labor History, 31:3, 271-293. April 12, 2012
Key Ideas and Details
2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
Craft and Structure
4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
Chronological and Spatial Thinking
1. Students compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past events and decisions and determining the lessons that were learned.
4. Students relate current events to the physical and human characteristics of places and regions.

Historical Research, Evidence, and Point of View
1. Students distinguish valid arguments from fallacious arguments in historical interpretations.
2. Students identify bias and prejudice in historical interpretations.
3. Students evaluate major debates among historians concerning alternative interpretations of the past, including an analysis of authors’ use of evidence and the distinctions between sound generalizations and misleading oversimplifications.
4. Students construct and test hypotheses; collect, evaluate, and employ information from multiple primary and secondary sources; and apply it in oral and written presentations.

Historical Interpretation
1. Students show the connections, causal and otherwise, between particular historical events and larger social, economic, and political trends and developments.
3. Students interpret past events and issues within the context in which an event unfolded rather than solely in terms of present-day norms and values.
4. Students understand the meaning, implication, and impact of historical events and recognize that events could have taken other directions.

1 Garcia, Richard; Griswold del Castillo, Richard. Cesar Chavez Trimph of Spirit Chapter 4 p.60. University of Oklahoma Press. 1995
2 Rose, Margaret. Traditional and Nontraditional Patterns of Female Activism in the United Farm Workers of America, 1962 to 1980. University of Nebraska Press. Stable Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1, Las Chicanas (1990). April 12, 2012
3 Garcia, Richard A. “Dolores Huerta: Woman, Organizer, and Symbol”, California History Vol. 72, No. 1, Women in California History (Spring, 1993), pp. 56-71. April 12, 2012
4 Ibid 3
5 Margaret Rose (1990): “From the fields to the picket line: Huelga women and the boycott,” 1965–1975, Labor History, 31:3, 271-293. April 12, 2011

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