Graciela Olivarez’s Story of Life and Struggle

There are women without whom our world would not be shaped the way it is shaped today. These women succeeded in various branches: Mathematics, Science, Art, Jurisdiction, Music, and many others. Some of these women have been rewarded for their contribution and are well recognized today. However some women are often forgotten. One of these women is a Mexican American woman Graciela Olivarez – a lawyer, a human rights activist, and a fighter for economic justice for the poor. Maybe it is not fully correct to say that her name is forgotten, though it can be surely said that she is well-known in very small circles by mostly those people who have connected their lives with jurisdiction or human rights studies.

Graciela Olivarez on March 9th, 1928 in Arizona to Spanish father and a Mexican American mother. She grew up in small town in Arizona, constantly viewing the miserable life of Mexican Americans and other national minorities. She continued her education all through the junior year in high school, then dropped out of school to move to the fast-paced city of Phoenix. It was then that Graciela started her journey as an activist. She moved to the big city to escape from the grey existence, to achieve something, to grow. However, not only pursuit of fun and ambitious youth motivated Olivarez to move to Phoenix. Even at that early age the purpose of her life was to become learned and to stand up for the rights of people that live unprivileged lives. Here it must be mentioned that later Olivarez did come back to finish school (Martinez, 2007, Ware, 2004). Though, here educational path will be discussed in this paper a little further.

According to biographers, in Phoenix Olivarez attended a college where she learned Jurisdiction and Business. A fact rather contradictory, keeping in mind that Olivarez dropped out of school without receiving her school leaving certificate. After attending college for several years, Olivarez started working in radio industry. She started out as a secretary, moving to well-known radio personality and then program director of the Spanish language radio station. Olivarez continued working for the radio for thirteen years. In this time her voice became to be recognized by the Spanish-speaking population. The fame she had acquired when working for the radio station was used by Graciela to reach out and help the Mexican American population of Phoenix (Martinez, 2007).

The information provided above shows that Graciela Olivarez was a very successful working woman and an active member of the society. Though, unfortunately it cannot be said that her personal life had been equally successful. She got married in the mid-1950s and in 1959 gave birth to a son. Though, the baby could not fix the relationship between Olivarez and her husband. Thus, at the beginning of the 1960s Graciela Olivarez got divorced (Ware, 2004).

Unlike many women that collapse when going though personal struggles, Olivarez’s divorce gave Olivarez an energetic push and purely rocketed her carrier. In the years following the divorce Graciela Olivarez worked as a member and then a chairman of a Phoenix based philanthropic foundation (Ware, 2004). The main point on the agenda of the foundation was to diminish the rates of juvenile delinquency cases within the Mexican American youth community. Not only had she sought to lower the crime numbers, she also insisted on the development of bilingual education for Mexican American people. She believed that even though it was important for Mexicans to preserve their culture, they had to also be absolutely fluent in the language of the country they reside it (Martinez, 2007).

Her efforts were duly noted and in 1966 she became head of the national Economic Opportunity Office. Her carrier was very successful, though she felt she needed to continue her education. She finished the year of high school and then was enrolled in the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Law. In fact, Graciela Olivarez was the first female graduate of this university. Graciela was the role model for Mexican Americans, she was an example of a simple girl who managed to reach the heights. She helped the Mexican American community realize that even though the opportunities were far from being equal, with the great amount of motivation and self-organization everything was truly possible (Ware, 2004).

Becoming the first female graduate was not the last “first” for Olivarez. Several years after the graduation she became the first woman to be on the board of directors of Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. Later, she became the first woman, and indeed the first non-white woman, to be the chairman of this fund (Martinez, 2007). All of the above were great achievements; however the real breakthrough in Olivarez’s carrier happened when President Nixon kindly asked Olivarez to be the vice – chairman of President’s Commission on Population and the American Future.

Graciela Olivarez had worked a lot for the wellbeing of Mexican American people and people in general. Most of her legal contributions are unknown, though her strong stand on the prohibition of abortion is often mentioned when talking about Olivarez. She believed that it was immoral to legalize abortion because it denied justice to the unborn child. She considered that every human being must be given a chance, a fair chance perfectly. By terminating the life of a human being before it has even begun is thus deriving this human being of fair chance, any сhance for this matter. She disagreed with the ban of contraceptives proclaimed by the Catholic Church, though was a firm believer that legalizing abortions would ruin the already morally damaged society.

During the following decade Graciela Olivarez traveled around the country teaching in universities and colleges. She headed several funds. She even was appointed head of the federal government’s anti-poverty agency, the Community Services Administration by President Jimmy Carter. She never remarried, maybe the reason for it was the fact that her carrier became her (Ware, 2004).

Graciela Olivarez was an exceptional woman. Unfortunately her name is often forgotten. Though, maybe it is not forgotten, but is just not mentioned because this brave woman lived her life questioning the status quo, fighting for the rights of underprivileged people, straggling with the stereotypes of Mexican Americans, and simply helping those who needed her help and assistance.

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