For me, history remains a grand adventure, one, which began at the kitchen table listening to the stories of my mother and grandmother and then took flight aboard the local bookmobile. As a historian, I have had the privilege of interviewing people whose quiet courage made a difference in their lives and in their communities. In the summer of 1978 I traveled to Guadalajara to interview labor and civil rights activist Luisa Moreno. On the last day of my stay, I blurted out, “I know what I’m going to do for my dissertation. I’m going to write about you.” She shook her head and said, “No, no. You are doing to write your dissertation on the cannery workers in southern California. You find these women.” I did and that’s how my life work in Chicana history began.
In From Out of the Shadows, I tell stories over time, to look at the dynamics of cultural coalescence and the claiming of public space. For example, I want the reader to imagine what it was like to be a woman in the 1930s - to recognize the opportunities available to Mexican women in the U.S. and, very importantly, what was beyond their grasp. Here it is a question of providing an understanding of what decisions they could make within the parameters of their world, of considering the structural elements in their lives (deportation, repatriation, poverty) as well their possibilities and aspirations. In what ways did education and popular culture feed their dreams? As an oral historian, I consider the dialectic between reminiscence and reticence as well as the process by which the past becomes memory and then memory becomes history.
With the assistance of over 230 contributors, Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia represents an eight-year labor of love. Whether carving out a community in St. Augustine in 1565, to reflecting on colonialism and liberty during the 1890s, to fighting for civil rights through the courts of the 1940s, Latinas have made history within and beyond national borders. In envisioning the encyclopedia as both an essential reference work and an engaging read, Virginia Sánchez Korrol, Carlos Cruz, and I are heartened by an e-mail sent by María Garciaz, Director of Salt Lake City Neighborhood Services. “On weekends I sit with my nine-year old daughter and eleven-year old son and they each read a section. We have some wonderful conversations about each woman they read about. . . .The encyclopedia is a powerful tool.”
Since 1996 twenty-two students have received their Ph.D. under my direction and the majority of these scholars have secured tenure-track, tenured, or public history positions, including Matt García at Arizona State, Emilie Stoltzfus at the Congressional Research Service, Lilia Fernández at Ohio State, Lara Medina at CSU Northridge, Frank Barajas, CSU Channel Islands, Mary Ann Villarreal, University of Denver, Laura Muñoz at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and Steven Rosales at Grand Valley State.
One of the nicest and perhaps most astute comment made about me as an instructor came from a former graduate student who in his thesis thanked me for my “gentle heart and ruthless pen.”
After almost three decades, my current research includes a biography of Luisa Moreno.
» Created Equal: A Social and Political History of the United States (New York: Longman, second edition, 2005, AP edition, 2005, third edition, 2008, fourth edition, forthcoming) co-authored with Jacqueline Jones, Peter Wood, Elaine T. May and Thomas Borstelmann
» From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998; Tenth Anniversary Edition, 2008) [also available on kindle] [selected as an ACLS Humanities E-book as well as an ACLS-HEB handheld edition] American Library Association, Choice, Outstanding Academic Book of 1998
» Cannery Women, Cannery Lives: Mexican Women, Unionization, and the California Food Processing Industry, 1930-1950 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987) (in eighth printing) National Women’s Political Caucus Distinguished Achievement Award
» Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia, 3 vols. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), co-edited with Virginia Sánchez Korrol (Project grants include $140,000 from the Ford Foundation and $299,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities) American Association of University Presses 2007 Outstanding Public and Secondary School Library Selection; New York Public Library, 2007 Best in Reference.
» “Latinas in History: An Interactive Project,” co-developed with Virginia Sánchez Korrol and Carlos A. Cruz, 2009 (Supported by an $180,000 grant from the Ford Foundation). http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/latinashistory/
» Unequal Sisters: An Inclusive Reader in U.S. Women’s History, Fourth Edition (New York: Routledge, 2008), sole editor. (Three previous editions co-edited with Ellen Carol DuBois, 1990, 1994, 1999) An abridged second edition was published in Japan, 1997. American Education Association Critic’s Choice Award
» Memories and Migrations: Mapping Boricua and Chicana Histories (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008), co-edited with John R. Chávez
» “Citizen Restaurant: American Imaginaries, American Communities,” American Quarterly, 60:1 (March 2008): 1-21
» The Practice of U.S. Women’s History: Narratives, Intersections, Dialogues (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007), co-edited with Eileen Boris and Susan J. Kleinberg
» American Dreaming, Global Realities: Re-Thinking U.S. Immigration History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006), co-edited with Donna R. Gabaccia
» “Nuestra América: Latino History as United States History,” Journal of American History, 93:3 (December 2006): 655-672
» Latina Legacies: Identity, Biography, and Community (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), co-edited with Virginia Sánchez Korrol
- Co-organizer and teacher, “Immigration and American Life,” Gilder Lehrman Institute
for American History seminar held at UC Irvine with Ana E. Rosas
- Advisory Board Member, Smithsonian National Museum of American History
- Advisory Board Member, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University
- Past President, American Studies Association
- Past President, Organization of American Historians
- Past President, Berkshire Conference of Women Historians
- Past President, Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association
- Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- Stanford University Multicultural Hall of Fame
- Fellow, Society of American Historians
- 21 Leaders for the 21st Century (by women’s e-news network, co-honoree with Virginia Sánchez Korrol)
- UCI Humanities Associates Faculty Teaching Award