Today’s Women’s History Month Spotlight is Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional
The Women’s Comision (CFMN) was founded in October 1970 after it was determined that the National Chicano Issues Conference that same year was focused on men leaving women’s issues out of the cause. The goals of the CFMN were to encourage female leadership of the Chican@ Movement, to increase knowledge about women’s issues, and provide programs, services, and networking that increased women’s overall success.
While still at the National Conference, with Founding President Francisca Flores at the helm, they passed the following 9 point resolution:
- The effort and work of Chicana/Mexican women in the Chicano movement is generally obscured because women are not accepted as community leaders, either by the Chicano movement or by the Anglo establishment.
- The existing myopic attitude does not prove that women are not capable or willing to participate. It does not prove that women are not active, indispensable (representing over 50% of the population), experienced and knowledgeable in organizing tactics and strategy of a people’s movement.
- THEREFORE, in order to terminate exclusion of female leadership in the Chicano/Mexican movement and in the community, be it RESOLVED that a Chicana/Mexican Women’s Commission be established at this conference which will represent women, in all areas where Mexicans prevail, and;
- That this commission be known as the Comisión Femenil Mexicana, and;
- That the Comisión direct its efforts to organizing women to assume leadership positions within the Chicano movement and in community life, and;
- That the Comisión disseminate news and information regarding the work and achievement of Mexican/Chicana women, and;
- That the Comisión concern itself in promoting programs which specifically lend themselves to help, assist and promote solutions to female type problems and problems confronting the Mexican family, and;
- That the Comisión spell out issues to support, and explore ways to establish relationships with other women’s organizations and movements.
In 1972 they established the Chicana Service Action Center which provided training, education, and employment opportunities by and for women. It continues to be active in several California counties to this day.
In 1973 they founded bilingual school programs, day care, and child development programs to support working class mothers who worked or were attending school. They also held their first conference to set an agenda for the organization with full membership input.
In 1975 they worked to obtain culturally competent reproductive rights for Chicanas. They managed to get a moratorium on sterilizations without established informed consent, bilingual consent forms, and an established waiting period to ensure the material had been appropriately explained and understood. Given the number of Latinas forceable sterilized without their consent this success was critical to women’s rights.
In the late 1970s they joined other feminist efforts trying to educate mainstream feminists about Chicana women’s issues and to create a decolonized feminist coalition. To that end, they attended the National Women’s Conference in Houston, the National Equal Rights Amendment March, The UN International Decade of Women’s Year Conference in Mexico Cit, and the follow up UN Mid-Decade Conference on Women in Copenhagen.
By 1980 they were influential enough that they were invited to the White House to discuss Chicana issues with then-President Jimmy Carter.
Throughout the 80s and 90s they focused on women’s health, labor, and activism. They had 24 chapters and the largest membership and success rate of any Chicana organization founded in the same period. In 1982 they established Casa Victoria, a residential treatment center for adolescent girls. They also continued to be active with the UN global feminism initiatives, attending the UN End of the Decade conference in Nairobi that same year.
Though their membership began to wane in the 1990s, CFMN continues to have an active California Chapter which celebrated its 30th year anniversary a few years ago. The organization and its various leaders have also been cited as inspirations to other important Chicana and Latina groups around the nation.