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Activist Ginny Montes Uplifted Future Women Leaders

Graphic featuring a black and white photo of Ginny Montes speaking into a microphone, the video title, and an illustration of Montes speaking to a group of seated women.

By Sara E. Cohen of Because of Her Story   

In 1991, Virginia “Ginny” E. Montes was elected secretary of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She became the first Latina to work as a nation-wide officer for the organization.  

In 1966, feminists formed NOW to confront discrimination against women. Notable cofounders included author and activist Betty Friedan and lawyer and minster Pauli Murray. The organization focused on equal rights, opportunities for women in education and employment, and access to contraception. 

Montes, who was Afro-Latina, migrated from Honduras to the United States in her youth. She worked with NOW for 13 years, serving as president of NOW's Georgia chapter. Her work focused on civil rights, engaging fellow women of color, preventing violence against women, and protecting welfare rights. Montes rooted her work in the intersections between race and gender. In 1992 she told a reporter for the Chicago Defender, “When you look at the poverty in this country, it’s predominantly women. Many of those women are of African, Latina or Native American descent—women who fall into many of the race definitions. But when we share a poverty, we share it together.” 

Watch the video in Spanish. See the full video series about women through history who fought for change.  

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Sara E. Cohen is the digital audiences and content coordinator for Because of Her Story, the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative. She shares lesser-known histories of women through this website, the Because of Her Story newsletter, and Smithsonian social media.

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