Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Aurora Lucero-White Lea, 1894-1965
By Donald Lucero, Dartmouth, Mass., nephew of Aurora Lucero
Born on February 8, 1894 to Julianna Romero and Antonio Lucero in Las Vegas, New Mexico, Aurora Lucero was the oldest of their seven children. In 1910 the family continued to live in Las Vegas and her father was employed as a professor. After two years as a student at Highands (NM) University she obtained a Bachelor of Pedagogy degree. She was later to receive several advanced degrees as her teaching and writing careers moved forward. Her first teaching assignment was at Tucumcari High School in 1916. She was to make teaching her career for the next 30 years.
The first major change shaping Aurora's life occurred in 1912 when New Mexico became a state. Her father, long a leader of the Democratic party in New Mexico, became its first Secretary of State. The family moved from Las Vegas to Santa Fe. Once in Santa Fe, Aurora reveled in the life of the capitol while working in her father's office. Knowing her academic and cultural background, Governor William C. McDonald appointed her to the San Diego Exposition Board in 1915 and she spent considerable time in San Diego assisting in the installation of the New Mexico exhibit. Then tragedy struck.
Shortly into Antonio Lucero's first term as Secretary of State, Julianna succumbed to a brief illness of peritonitis and died at Santa Fe. The announcement of her death came as a shock to her many friends and family who had believed that the crisis of her illness had passed. The family remained in Santa Fe with their maternal grandmother (Refugio Baca de Romero) assuming many maternal responsibilities. Aurora continued to work in her father's office and with Nina Otero (LINK to Otero-Warren bio sketch), a noted suffragist whom Aurora helped to lobby for the right of women to vote.
In October 1915 Santa Fe women suffragists sponsored an open meeting at the Old Palace with Ella St. Clair Thompson of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CUWS) the principal speaker. Thompson was on a speaking tour on behalf of the Congressional Union. Local speakers included Aurora Lucero who spoke in Spanish, "El Provenir de los Ninos" (Child Welfare). As local newspaper coverage reported, "she pointed out the importance of women taking an interest in politics in an age when politics must enter into the passage of laws affecting the house." Suffragists followed up this meeting with a demonstration two days later at the home of Arizona Senator Thomas Catron. A car parade of 150 supporters launched the event. At the Senator's home, Lucero took a leading role: "I speak for the Spanish American women, who while conservative, want the best possible laws when their home life is the question at issue."
In March 1916 Thompson and Doris Stevens made another visit on behalf of the CUWS. At a public meeting they organized a New Mexico branch of the Union. Aurora Lucero attended the meeting and sold "suffrage literature and badges."
Finally, in November 1917, Nevada's leading suffragist, Anne Martin, vice president of the National Woman's Party, spoke in Santa Fe, calling for woman suffrage "as a war measure." Aurora Lucero served as "chairman of the ushers" for the event. The state legislature resisted the call for woman suffrage until the passage of the 19th Amendment. New Mexico then became the 32nd state to approve the Amendment in February 1920.
Aurora's family claim competed with her suffrage activism. Her father was appointed by the State Department to serve as Interpreter General at the Pan-American Congress in 1916 at Washington, D.C. Aurora accompanied him, but enroute he became ill and required hospitalization in Chicago. He insisted that his daughter proceed to Washington without him.
Once at the Congress she was asked to serve as an aide for the women of the Ladies Delegation. Her tasks were to act as a guide and hostess, and to translate speeches of the Pan-American women delegates. She also attended a reception at the White House. Her father completed his responsibilities in Santa Fe and, after a brief stint as prohibition commissioner, he returned to private life.
In 1920, Aurora, and the other members of her family, received a second major blow with the unexpected death of their father. Aurora was 26. Her youngest sibling, who was to come under the care of her sister Delia, was eight.
Aurora married George D. White in 1911. They moved to California where they lived for four years and where their daughter, Dolores, was born in 1913.
Aurora returned to New Mexico where she contributed to the woman suffrage movement and completed two years of additional study, receiving her B.A from Highlands University. She followed this with a semester's graduate study at the University of Southern California. By 1920 the family was living in Los Angeles, where her husband worked as a real estate agent.
In 1925-27 she served as Superintendent of Schools in San Miguel County back in New Mexico . It was during her San Miguel superintendency that her interest in New Mexico's folklore became prominent in her work. As roads were bad and distances great, she stayed in the field during the week visiting the area's remote village. This was "a happy time folklorically speaking. In those days a county superintendent was his/her own supervisor, so my work was mostly in the field. I covered the whole county of San Miguel during the period I was in office. It was then that I became conversant with the folk ways of the people of the rural area."
She received an appointment in 1927 as assistant professor of Spanish at Highlands University , which post she held until 1934. During this time she worked on her Master's degree, which she received in 1932. Her teaching took her to different parts of the state affording splendid opportunity for the gathering of folk material. The thesis she submited for her Master's degree was Coloquios de Los Pastores (Colloquies of the Shepherds).
In 1934 she was appointed assistant superintendent of instruction for the State of New Mexico, serving for two years. During this period she prepared many pamphlets containing folklore materials usable in the classroom. She came to the attention of others working in the field and gained renown as an authority on the folklore of New Mexico. She was a charter member of La Sociedad Folklorica. While teaching at Highlands her students put on several of her original plays which were later presented at the Santa Fe fiestas; in 1926 she co-authored a folk dance book; in 1940 she published a play, Los Pastores (in Spanish and English with music), and in 1941 published Volume I of The Foklore of New Mexico. This was incorporated into the volume Literary Folklore of the Hispanic Southwest published in 1948. There were many storied achievements, but this was not as I knew her.
My appreciation of New Mexico's history and my family's place in it came from many sources. Perhaps the most important of these was my Aunt Aurora, whom we often visited in Santa Fe. Even in a community of quaint houses and odd surrounds, my Aunt Aurora's Canyon Road home, in an old dance hall of the 1880's, was conspicuously eccentric. For example, her bathroom door was a louvered contraption from the old saloon which neither met the threshold at the bottom nor the door jam on top. Woe it be for one who had to go to the bathroom in the midst of a family get together - or take a bath in preparation for a night stay! WE LOVED AUNT AURORA BUT WE, THE KIDS, MOST OFTEN STAYED AT AUNT DELIA'S' - OR AUNT BLANCHE'S - THEY, AT LEAST, HAD HOMES WITH DOORS ON THEIR BATHROOMS!
In keeping with its history, her home was furnished with a number of heirloom pieces. There was a wooden chest covered with green leather painted with colorful designs, which was her mother's wedding chest; her grandmother's carved wooden jewel case with heavy metal clasp; a commodious pine food chest; an intricately designed tortoise shell comb, which her mother wore to many social functions, and her grandmother's olla (cooking pot), a treasured heirloom which had been passed down for generations.
She was 40 years older than I and I was crazy about her.
She had a small pot-belly stove in her kitchen near which she'd sit, shoeless - her hose rolled down to her ankles - looking for just the right note, among the many notes resting in her lap, working on a new project. I thought of her as an accomplished historian and anthropologist and I wanted to be just like her. And so - as it turned out - did at least one other member of my family.
My Aunt Aurora was one of three sisters and each was very special. My sister Sylvia, who thought that it was "age" that would give her the permission required to be as eccentric as they, couldn't wait to become older. I once told her that she didn't have to wait - that she already possessed three of the required qualities that would put her in their class: she was crazy (Aunt Aurora), she was funny (Aunt Delia) and she was a pain in the ass (Aunt Julia). Later, as I thought about it, I wasn't sure whom I had identified as possessing which trait for each was as notorious as the next but Aunt Aurora was particularly noteworthy.
Her world view:
"It is my belief, she said, "that more has not been accomplished in the field of Spanish folklore in New Mexico because so few people of English extraction understand Spanish. And, not enough persons of Spanish speech have come to realize the significance of the wealth of materials with which we, here in New Mexico, are surrounded."
Her continued interest in folkdrama led to her collecting manuscripts of LaPastores, examining the origins of Los Matachines, and publishing Literary Folklore of the Southwest.
She explored the cultural interchange between Spanish, Mexican, and Indian cultures. She recognized that much folk culture had come from Mexico and was kept alive in New Mexico.
Her play, "Kearny Takes Las Vegas - a folk drama - based on the taking of Las Vegas, New Mexico by U.S. Military General Stephen W. Kearny, August, 1846," details the ambivalence many New Mexicans felt about the American takeover.
In 1960 Aurora retired from teaching. She remained a regional writer interested in all aspects of New Mexican culture, but, in particular, dance and folk plays.
She died in 1965 in New Mexico.
U.S. Federal Manuscript Censuses, Lucero family, Las Vegas, NM, 1910; George and Aurora White family, Los Angeles, CA, 1920.
Robolledo, Tey Diana, Nuestras Mujeres: Hispanas of New Mexico: their images and their lives, 1582-1992. El Norte Publications/Academia, 1992.
The Santa Fe Scene, January 9, 1960, pp 4 -7.
Lucero, Donald L., personal reminiscences.
Santa Fe New Mexican:
"Good Addresses at Suffrage meeting on Monday Evening," 16 October 1915, p. 5.
"Only the Vice and Liquor Interests, Ultra Conservatives and Fearful Politicians are Opposed to Woman Suffrage, National Congressional Organizer Declares Here," 19 October 1915, p. 2.
"State Fight Well Started; Suffragist Leaders Leave to Make Fur Fly in Arizona," 4 March 1916, p. 12.
"Mrs. Otero-Warren Aids in Lobby Work for Suffrage Cause," 15 March 1916, p. 5.
"Miss Anne Martin, Speaker on Friday, Popular Suffragist," 27 Nov. 1917, p. 7.
Donald L. Lucero is a former resident of Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he was born in his father's home, formerly the home his paternal grandfather. He was educated in the Las Vegas schools through college, where in 1958 he received his B.A. in history from New Mexico Highlands University. After service with the U.S. Army, he served a two-year commitment with the U.S. Peace Corps in Colombia, South America. He then returned to New Mexico on a Peace Corps Preferential Fellowship to pursue graduate work in Counseling at the University of New Mexico. He received his M.A. in Counseling from this institution in 1965 and returned to complete his doctorate in Counseling Psychology in 1970.
Since completion of a post-doctoral fellowship in Community Psychiatry and a second master's degree in Mental Health Administration at the University of North Carolina Medical School and School of Public Health, he has held several clinical and administrative positions in mental health.
Dr. Lucero, now retired, is the author of The Adobe Kingdom; A Nation of Shepherds; The Rosas Affair; In the Dust of Time; and Beyond the Distant Post, each of which is based on a true story regarding the New Mexico Colony.