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A suffrage leader, educator, and politician. The first Latina to run for US Congress and one of the first’s women to serve as a government official in New Mexico.
Adelina “Nina” Otero Warren was born near Los Lunas, New Mexico. Her family was among the early settlers in New Mexico, and her parents were part of the Hispanic elite. When she was 2 years old, her father was killed by an Anglo squatter. A few years later, her mother married an English businessman, and she grew up in a multicultural environment. She was influenced by her mother, who was an advocate for social and educational developments and served as the director of Santa Fe’s Board of Education. At 16, the family relocated to Santa Fe, where she became a socialite. At the age of 26, she married Lieutenant Rawson D. Warren, a cavalry officer who was nine years older than her. Though the marriage did not last long, she kept her x-husband’s last name and called herself a widow, so she would not be stigmatized as a divorced woman.
At 31, Nina moved to NYC to keep house for her brother. There, she became active in Anne Morgan’s settlement house, working alongside the famous suffragist Alice Paul and organizing crafts programs for working-class women. Two years later, her mother died, and Nina returned to Santa Fe to take care of her half-siblings. Upon her arrival, she started working for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. Soon she became the first Mexican-American state leader of the Congressional Union in New Mexico, raising support from the Spanish-speaking community as well as from the English-speaking community. Using her family connections, she was a successful lobbyist for voting in favor of the Nineteenth Amendment, and she had a key role in its ratification in 1920. In 1922, at the age of 41, Nina ran as the Republican Party nominee for New Mexico to the US House of Representatives – The first Latina to run for the US Congress. During her campaign, she spoke Spanish and advocated for the improvement of education, health care, and welfare services, as well as for the preservation of Hispano heritage and culture. Ultimately, she lost the election by less than 9%, probably because it was discovered that she was a divorcee, not a widow.
In 1917 Nina was appointed as the Santa Fe Superintendent of Instruction – one of the first women to serve as government officials in New Mexico. In her 12 years in office, she worked tirelessly to improve the education of Hispano.
More Interesting Anecdotes:
- Her full name was María Adelina Isabel Emilia Otero, but she called herself Nina.
- Her mother’s family were among the first settlers in New Mexico, arriving during the Oñate settlement in 1598.
- She had two brothers and nine half-siblings.
- At 13, she learned how to shoot pistols and other firearms.
- She was in a circuit of many artists and writers, including Alice Henderson, Mary Austin, Witter Byner, and Witter Byner.
- In 1936 a collection of her writings were published as a book called “Old Spain in Our Southwest.”
- She worked for the preservation of historic structures in Santa Fe and Taos.
- She had no children of her own.
- Nina Otero Community School in Santa Fe is named after her.
- The Otero Elementary School in Colorado is named in her honor.
Watch and Learn More
One of Her Landmarks
Nina in 1923 . Photo credit - Bain News Service, publisher @ LOC
Citations and Additional References:
New Mexico Historic Women Maker Initiative website.
National Park Service website.