Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren of New Mexico has put her twin best on display when it comes to championing causes like women’s suffrage and better education, so it’s fitting that her image will soon appear on a quarter issued by the U.S. Mint.
Otero-Warren’s likeness will be among those appearing on the back of a series of quarterly titles featuring prominent women in United States history. Released by 2025, the series will include depictions of up to 20 women.
Otero-Warren (1881-1965) was the first Hispanic woman to run for a seat in Congress and was among the first five women selected to be represented at quarterback.
New Mexico writer and researcher Sylvia Ramos Cruz said Otero-Warren deserves this recognition.
“All her life she has worked for communities – in the political field, but also in the social field,” she said.
Ramos Cruz says the five women selected for the American Women’s Quarters Series so far are great.
Besides Otero-Warren, these include Maya Angelou (1928-2014), writer, poet, performer, teacher, and civil rights activist; Sally Ride (1951-2012), astronaut, physicist and first American woman in space; Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010), social worker, community developer and first elected female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation; and Anna May Wong (1905-1961), an actress considered Hollywood’s first Chinese-American movie star.
“They are very representative of the diversity of this country and have contributed not only to the lives of women, but also to the general public,” said Ramos Cruz.
La Monnaie has already started shipping quarters bearing the image of Angelou. Pieces with images of Ride, Mankiller, Otero-Warren and Wong will be released later. Each performance on the quarters will be unique to the woman featured.
On the obverse, or front, however, each of the quarters in the women’s series will display the portrait of George Washington made 90 years ago by Laura Gardin Fraser. Fraser’s creation had previously been used on a 1999 five-dollar gold coin commemorating the 200th anniversary of Washington’s death.
The Otero-Warren neighborhood depicts Otero-Warren with flowers of New Mexico’s state flower, the yucca, and the Spanish words “voto para la mujer”, which translates to women’s vote.
“Many, many women pushed for suffrage in New Mexico,” Ramos Cruz said. “(Otero-Warren) shouldn’t get all the credit. But she was needed to recruit Hispanic women (for the suffrage campaign) and she certainly helped push Republican votes to ‘yes’ for suffrage in 1920.”
Ramos Cruz, 75, is a surgeon born in Puerto Rico, educated in New York and moved to New Mexico in 1990. Since retiring from his medical practice several years ago, she focused on writing poetry and women’s history, and advocating for women’s rights. She said Otero-Warren deserved to be commemorated in the Women’s Quarters series for her work in the suffrage movement.
But she notes that was only part of Otero-Warren’s life.
“She was a feminist, suffragist, educator, writer, politician, businesswoman, farmer, leader and champion of Hispanic cultural heritage,” Ramos Cruz said.
An active life
Otero-Warren was born in 1881 on her family hacienda near Los Lunas. She was part of two prominent Hispanic families. His mother’s family, the Lunas, had settled in New Mexico in the late 16th century. His father’s family, the Oteros, came to New Mexico from Spain in the late 1700s. They were related to Miguel Antonio Otero II, territorial governor of New Mexico from 1897 to 1906.
Otero-Warren was educated at a Catholic boarding school in St. Louis from 1892 to 1894. Returning to New Mexico, she married a U.S. Army officer in 1908, but divorced two years later. Due to the stigma attached to divorce at the time, she called herself a widow.
Her upbringing in St. Louis had instilled in her a social conscience and a belief that women could be community leaders. In 1917, she became one of New Mexico’s first female public servants when she took the post of Superintendent of Schools in Santa Fe, a position she held until the late 1920s. In this role , she is committed to improving the education of Hispanics, Indians, and all students in rural areas.
“She managed the schools very well,” said Ramos Cruz. “She recognized that in order for Spanish-speaking children to enter the mainstream, they needed to know English, as well as other subjects. But she also pushed for the preservation of history, culture and traditions. traditions of the Hispanic West.
Otero-Warren’s writings of his young life on the family hacienda were published in a 1936 book titled “Old Spain in Our Southwest”.
In 1922, she ran for the United States House on the Republican ticket, but lost to the Democratic nominee. She got 45.6% of the vote.
Otero-Warren became director of the Civilian Conservation Corps of New Mexico in 1930 and later worked with CCC and the Works Progress Administration on adult education.
During the last years of her life, she was in the real estate business in Santa Fe.
Nancy Kenney of Santa Fe, Otero-Warren’s great-niece, recalls the weekly gatherings at the Santa Fe family home when Kenney was a child. She said there would be a dozen adults there, family members, including Otero-Warren, and others from the community, including a priest and about five children, including Kenney.
“We would all come in and sit at the feet of the great aunts,” Kenney said of herself and the other kids. “We admired him (Otero-Warren) in so many ways. She held court. She was a good listener and had a loving face, but she was not a big hugger. She was a go-getter. She was trying to make a difference in the world.
Otero-Warren died in Santa Fe at the age of 83. And, now, in tribute to a full life, she will be the first Hispanic-American woman to be depicted on the US motto.