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Latina’s Who Have Changed the World

In honor of Women’s History Month, Her Campus Vanderbilt will be highlighting the stories of Latina women this week. Here are four Latina women who are pioneers in their field and have changed the world for the better. 

Sonia Sotomayor 

Serving as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States since 2009, Sonia Maria Sotomayor is the first Hispanic member and third woman to serve on the high bench. Sotomayor graduated from Princeton University summa cum laude and earned her J.D. at Yale University Law School. Even before reaching the Supreme Court, Sotomayor began fighting discrimination against Puerto Ricans at Princeton. Since serving as associate justice, she has been working tirelessly to change the legal landscape on issues such as women’s rights, criminal justice reform, issues on race, gender, and ethnic identity, and more. 

Dolores Huerta 

The first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Dolores Huerta is a pioneer for improving the lives of Latinx farm workers. The civil rights activist co-founded the National Farmworkers Association, now known as the United Farm Workers, with Cesar Chavez in 1962. The organization fought for improved conditions for farm workers. Huerta’s role was crucial in obtaining the 1963 legislation to extend the federal program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) to California farmworkers, and the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, and more. She has been awarded the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her outstanding work. 

Sylvia Rivera 

Sylvia Rivera is the first Latina gay and trans activist. As a trans woman and drag queen, Rivera was rejected from her family at a young age and forced to live on the streets. She alongside her friend Marsha P. Johnson, founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, which was an organization that provided a home for young gay people, trans individuals, and drag queens. She also fought for people of color and low-income LGBTQ people. After Rivera passed in 2002, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project was created to continue helping the groups Rivera dedicated her life to fight for. 

Ellen Ochoa 

Being the first Latina to go to space in 1993 on a nine-day mission aboard the Shuttle Discovery, Ellen Ochoa has proven that nothing is impossible with a bit of hard work. After obtaining her Masters degree and Ph.D at Stanford University, Ochoa became a research engineer at NASA. Her intellect and innovative methods for detecting imperfections in a repeating pattern led her to be chosen for the space mission. During the trip, Ochoa conducted important research on the Earth’s ozone. Since then, she has gone on three additional missions and in 2007, was appointed deputy director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. In 2013, she was promoted to director and became second woman and the first Latina in the position.

Eryn Lin

Vanderbilt '21

Economics major, Business and Chinese Culture & Language minor "People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." -Maya Angelou
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