Life Story: Emma Tenayuca, 1916–19992021-02-11T15:48:43-05:00

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Life Story: Emma Tenayuca (1916–1999)

Latina Labor Activist and Communist Party Leader

The story of a labor leader who led a major food-industry strike in her early 20s and was eventually ostracized for her political beliefs.

Emma Tenayuca in Bexar County Jail

Emma Tenayuca in Bexar County Jail, June 29, 1937. Courtesy, UTSA Special Collections.

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Emma Tenayuca speaking to crowd outside San Antonio City Hall

Workers Alliance leader Emma Tenayuca speaking to crowd outside San Antonio City Hall, March 8, 1937. Courtesy, UTSA Special Collections.

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This video was created by the New-York Historical Society Teen Leaders in collaboration with the Untold project.

Suggested Activities

  • Emma is part of a long history of female labor leaders. Compare her life story with those of Clara Lemlich and Ella May Wiggins. How was her life different, particularly given that she was not an industrial worker, but an outside organizer?
  • The Communist Party was a growing presence in 1920s–1930s America. Connect Emma’s story to that of other women activists associated with the Communist Party, including Ella May Wiggins and militant housewives.
  • Emma witnessed firsthand the complications of Mexican American life in Texas. Study the challenges of the Latinx community by pairing her life story with that of Jovita Idar and the newspaper articles about El Paso laundry workers.

Themes

ACTIVISM AND SOCIAL CHANGE; WORK, LABOR, AND ECONOMY; AMERICAN IDENTITY AND CITIZENSHIP

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