Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Jovita Idar, 1885-1946
By Nancy Baker Jones
This entry has been republished with special permission from the Handbook of Texas Women, a project of the Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association. <https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fid03>. Accessed September 15, 2019.
IDAR, JOVITA (1885-1946). Jovita Idár, teacher, journalist, and political activist, was born in Laredo in 1885, one of eight children of Jovita and Nicasio Idár. She attended the Holding Institute (a Methodist school) in Laredo, from which she earned a teaching certificate in 1903. She then taught at a small school in Ojuelos. Inadequate equipment and poor conditions, as well as her inability to improve them, frustrated her, so she resigned and joined two of her brothers as writers for her father's weekly newspaper, La Crónica.
In 1910 and 1911 La Crónica was vocal in criticizing certain aspects of Hispanic-Anglo relations. It featured stories on educational and social discrimination against Mexican-Americans, deteriorating economic conditions, decreasing use of the Spanish language, the loss of Mexican culture, and lynchings of Hispanics. The newspaper also supported efforts of the revolutionary forces in Mexico. In 1911 La Crónica called a convention of the Orden Caballeros de Honor, a fraternal order, to discuss the troubling issues of the times. In September 1911 Jovita Idár joined lodge members and others at Laredo in the First Mexican Congress to discuss educational, social, labor, and economic matters. Women participated as speakers and participants; for some it was the first political meeting. This congress has been called the first attempt in Mexican-American history to organize a militant feminist social movement. That same year, Idár published a pro-woman suffrage piece in La Crónica. In 1916, when she and her brother, Eduardo, formed another newspaper entitled Evolución, they continued to advocate publicly through their press the importance of women's rights in politics. Another outcome of the congress was the formation in October 1911 of La Liga Femenil Mexicanista. Jovita Idár became its first president and organized its principal effort, to provide education for poor children.
In 1913 during the Mexican Revolution battle of Nuevo Laredo, Idár and a friend, Leonor Villegas de Magnón, crossed the border to care for the injured. Idár later joined La Cruz Blanca, a medical group similar to the Red Cross, and traveled in northern Mexico with revolutionary forces as a nurse. When she returned to Laredo later that year she joined the staff of the newspaper El Progreso and soon offended the United States Army and Texas Rangers with an editorial protesting President Woodrow Wilson's dispatch of United States troops to the border. When rangers arrived to close down El Progreso, Idár stood in the doorway to keep them from entering. The rangers closed the newspaper later, however, and Idár returned to La Crónica. After her father died in 1914, she ran the paper.
In 1917 Idár married Bartolo Juárez. The couple moved to San Antonio, where Jovita Juárez became an active member of the Democratic Party, established a free kindergarten, worked as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking patients in a county hospital, and was an editor of El Heraldo Cristiano, a publication of the Rio Grande Conference of the Methodist Church. She and her husband had no children. She died in San Antonio in 1946.
Martha P. Cotera, Diosa y Hembra: The History and Heritage of Chicanas in the U.S. (Austin: Information Systems Development, 1976). José E. Limón, "El Primer Congreso Mexicanista de 1911," Aztlán 5 (Spring, Fall 1974). Mary Beth Rogers et al., We Can Fly: Stories of Katherine Stinson and Other Gutsy Texas Women (Austin: Texas Foundation for Women's Resources, 1983). Gabriela González, "Jovita Idar: The Idelogical Origins of a Transnational Advocate of La Raza," in Texas Women: Their Histories, Their Lives, eds. Elizabeth Hayes Turner, Rebecca Sharpless, and Stephanie Cole (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2015).