6 Hispanic Women Who Made History

Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15 – October 15. This week we honor six amazing Hispanic women who broke through the glass ceiling and pathed the way for future generations of Hispanic women and girls to follow. 

Sonia Sotomayor

Sotomayor was born to Puerto Rican parents in Bronx, New York. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1976 and was awarded the Pyne Prize, the highest academic award given to Princeton undergraduates. Sotomayor then went on to Yale Law School, where she was an editor for the Yale Law Journal. She received her J.D. in 1979 and passed the bar in 1980.

On May 26, 2009, President Obama nominated Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice. The U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination in August 2009 making her the first Hispanic justice on the United States Supreme Court.

Romana Acosta Banuelos

Banuelos is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and during the Great Depression, she and her family were deported from the US, even though she was born in Arizona. When she was 18 years old she returned to the United States with her children and worked multiple jobs including as a dishwasher and tortilla maker.

With a desire to help fellow Hispanic women in her neighborhood, Banuelos started the Pan-American National Bank in East Los Angeles, California.The bank became so successful that is caught the attention of the Nixon Administration, and the President offered her the position of Treasure of the United States. On December 17, 1971, Banuelos became the first Hispanic Treasure of the US.

Anna Maria Chávez

Chavez served as CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, she was the first Hispanic and first woman of color to hold the position. During her time as CEO she oversaw the “Ban Bossy” campaign which encourages young girls to become leaders and aims to remove the stigma associated with the word bossy.

Before Chavez worked for the Girl Scouts she was legal counsel to the Federal Highway Administration  and served as an attorney-advisor in the Office of the Counsel to the President.

Antonia Coello Novello

Novello is the first woman and first Hispanic to serve as Surgeon General. She was appointed the position by President George H. W. Bush and served from 1990 – 1993.  During her time as Surgeon General, Novello focused on the health of women, children, and minorities, as well as on underage drinking, smoking, and AIDS.

After her tenure as Surgeon General ended she was assigned as UNICEF’s Special Representative for Health and Nutrition.

Ellen Ochoa

A graduate of San Diego State University and Stanford, Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go to space after she served on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1993. She went on four space flights and logged over 1,000 hours in space.

Ochoa is the current director of the Johnson Space Center, the firstHispanicc and second woman to hold the position.

Susana Martinez

In November 2010 Martinez was elected Governor of New Mexico. She is the first Hispanic woman governor in the United States. Before she was governor Martinez was Assistant District Attorney for Doña Ana County, New Mexico and then went on to serve three terms as the county’s District Attorney.

Martinez was named in Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the world in 2013, one of only two governors who made the list.


Melissa Jones
Learn how you can be a part of preserving women’s stories and support future programs at the Women’s Museum of California
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