Adelina Otero-Warren

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Adelina Otero-Warren

Adelina "Nina" Otero-Warren (1881–1965) was a woman's suffragist, educator, and politician in the United States.

Biography: 1881–1906[edit]

Born on October 23, 1881, by the name Maria Otero-Warren Isabel Emilia Otero in her family’s hacienda “La Constancia”, close to Los Lunas, New Mexico, Otero-Warren was born into aristocracy, both from her matriarchal side and patriarchal. Otero-Warren had an older brother, Eduardo who lived from 1880 to 1932 and a younger brother, Manuel who lived from 1883 to 1963, and nine half siblings.[1]

Her mother was Eloisa Luna, a descendant of the Luna family. The Lunas were one of the first settlers in New Mexico arriving in 1598 during the Onate settlement.[2] Eloisa was the third child born to Antonio and Isabella Luna, and like the rest of her siblings was also educated at a Catholic school in New York.

Her father, Manuel B. Otero, was also a descendant of longtime settlers. The Oteros originally from Spain migrated to New Mexico in 1786 and were equally well established. Manuel was well-educated, both in Washington D.C. at Georgetown University and in Germany at Heidelberg University.[2] Manuel died during a quarrel against a band of Anglos who questioned his property ownership at the age of twenty-three leaving his daughter fatherless at the age of two.[3]


Otero-Warren’s mother remarried after the death of her first husband to Alfred Maurice Bergere an Englishman who had descendants in various parts of Europe. The businessman migrated to New Mexico in 1880 and worked for the Spiegelberg brothers’ mercantile enterprise.[4] This marriage helped merge political and economic agendas between Anglo’s and natives which Otero-Warren came to value.

Eloise was an activist for social and educational developments, in the early 1900s she became the director of Santa Fe’s board of education. She was framed as the mother figure of Santa Fe, and she opened her home to political exchange. Like Otero-Warren later emphasizes, her mother too focused on the importance of education, improving schools locally and more specifically cared for those who are poor and sick. Eloise, Otero-Warren’s mother and first influential role model died in 1914.[2]


In 1892, Otero-Warren was sent to a private Catholic school, Maryville College of the Sacred Heart in St. Louis, which she claimed influenced her social consciousness.[3] "this was moved from previous author to this section" Otero-Warren attended Maryville University in Saint Louis, Missouri, from 1892 to 1894.[5]

Youth and early years[edit]

She was born in Los Lunas, New Mexico, in 1881 to conservative parents who traced their heritage to eleventh-century Spain.

Her mother, Eloise raised Adelina within the traditional realm of a Spanish Hacienda in Los Lunas, her early surroundings were mostly relatives and other well to do Hispanic families who were affluent monetarily, politically, and socially. When their family moved to Santa Fe in 1897 Otero-Warren began to incorporate her step-father’s European mercantilism influence and the present Anglo-American culture.[2]

In 1894, she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, when her uncle, Miguel Otero, was appointed territorial governor of New Mexico in 1894.[5]

From an early age her curiosity pushed her to learn not just literary knowledge, but instead more unconventional interests like arms and weapons more common for males. She married a cavalry officer, Lieutenant Rawson D. Warren in 1908. At the very young age of twenty six Otero-Warren felt dissatisfied with her newly founded, less progressive and dependent role she inherited as Warren’s wife.[3]

After only two years of marriage she boldly divorced Warren, unacceptable culturally and religiously she named herself a “widow.” This serves as another example of her unwavering quick wit and ability to appease the masses.

In 1912 Otero-Warren relocated to the city of New York where she was active in Anne Morgan’s settlement house, an organization aimed to aid women in the working-class. [2]

By 1917 she had gained her title as leader of the state Congressional Union. Alice Paul, who was the director of the national organization that later renamed itself the National Woman’s Party, elected Otero-Warren. Otero-Warren had made close ties with Ella St. Clair Thompson the woman who headed the Congressional Union for Women's Suffrage upon her arrival in New Mexico.[6]

In 1922 Otero-Warren became the first Latina to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives against the incumbent Nestor Montoya. She was the Republican candidate for New Mexico.[7]

In the 1920s she became the chair of the State Board of Health and the Santa Fe Superintendent of Instruction. She was elected by Governor Larrazolo[8] to the first Board of Public Health due to her work with other groups like the Red Cross and the Women’s Auxiliary of the State Council of Defense.

From 1923-1929 she was named the Inspector of Indian Schools in Santa Fe and designated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the state head of the federal Civilian Conservation Corporation.[4]

1930 Otero-Warren was admitted as the Director of Literacy Education for the Civilian Conservation Corps in New Mexico as part of the New Deal.[2] During this period literacy was very low. Through constant efforts to promote bilingual education she continued to fight and teach.

In 1931 Otero-Warren expressed her view on education as well as her cultural awareness in the printed May issue of Survey Graphic.[9]

In 1936 her writings referencing her early life on the Luna hacienda became published as a book, Old Spain in Our Southwest. She revealed with esteem her youth on the ranch, where she formed her self-sufficient and independent character. This record along with her less political works with the communities in Santa Fe and Taos to protect historic landmarks and art as well as more modern efforts in artistic communities, show Otero-Warren’s versatile appreciation for politics, education, art, and business.[9]

In 1941 she worked with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corporation (CCC) to focus on adult education. This lead her to become the Director of the Work Conference for Adult Teachers in Puerto Rico.[8] She quickly found the lack of resources were immense and as a result she incorporated a strategic educational program to teach Spanish as the primary language until 5th grade, and offered English as a foreign language option. Her goal like all of her progress was to merge and create a transcultural bridge to better civic circumstances. She also was able to create a program for sailors, soldiers, airforce men, and marines in the United States[8] to familiarize them with the Spanish language.

By 1947 she began her real estate business in Santa Fe named Los Dos Realty and Insurance Company with her partner Meadors.[2] Otero-Warren focused on selling homes and did so until her death at the age of eighty-three. Even in her old age she was always a financial and amicable support for those around her.

Her death was on January 3, 1965, but her legacy continued. On October 26, 1988, in Colorado, the Otero Elementary School was founded. It remains a symbol and tribute to Otero-Warren.

Political career[edit]

In 1914, Otero-Warren worked with the woman's suffrage campaign in New Mexico with Alice Paul's Congressional Union (forerunner of the Woman's Party). She soon rose to leadership ranks in the state Congressional Union, rallying support among both Spanish and English-speaking communities. Otero-Warren lobbied New Mexico congressmen to vote in favor of the 19th Amendment. From 1917 to 1929, she served as one of New Mexico's first female government officials: Santa Fe Superintendent of Instruction, and chair of the State Board of Health. She was named Inspector of Indian Schools in Santa Fe County in 1923 and was appointed as state director of the federal Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Otero-Warren won the Republican Party nomination to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1922.[10] However, she was defeated by Democrat John Morrow, receiving 45.6% of the vote. "added after this".

Life in detail[edit]

Otero-Warren was born in New Mexico during the twentieth century into a family of old Spanish colonial lineage. During a period distinguished by various predominant cultures she was characterized as the intermediary of not just Hispanic, but also Anglo and American Indian relations. She gained the public affinity through her heritage, marriage, and career. She was a well-educated and career-driven Southwest Native. But because of her distinct background and role as a middleman across cultures she managed to make a unique impact socially and politically. Her opulent heritage and marriage to Anglo, Warren gave her a particular position between the power structures and boundaries dividing the Anglos and natives. Aside from her more concrete contributions politically, Otero-Warren also stands as a figurative symbol of the intricate relationship between cultures in America during the twentieth century, and the controversial notion of assimilation.[6]

Her clout politically and economically was distinguished right from her birth, but her actual role as a median for revolutionary change came from her own determination. She devoted her skills and role to the suffrage movement, writing, educating, and also became a board member for public health and social warfare. She became the voice of reason between Hispanics, Anglo Americans, and Indians and worked with each group personally and more formally in a public sphere.

Otero-Warren was the very first Mexican-American to candidate for the presidential seat in her Congressional Union of her home state, New Mexico. She was also known as a key figure during the women’s suffrage movement, and as the first woman to run for the United States Congress.[3] Her success underlines the innovative female alliance that enabled feminist issues and rights to be voiced. She was also an influential voice in the ratification of the nineteenth amendment in New Mexico.

As state leader of the Congressional Union, she worked closely with Alice Paul to safeguard the ratification of the 19th Amendment. New Mexico obtained full suffrage as the federal amendment was ratified in 1920.[8] Although her 1922 congressional campaign was defeated by the Democratic candidate who secured 10,000 more votes, due to the unpopular publicity of her divorce that occurred more than a decade before she did not go unnoticed. More importantly, her efforts did not either. She continues to stand as a symbol of perseverance like all of her work, transculturally for her dedication, education, temperance, and social mobility. Her Catholic background was often seen as a barrier for Otero-Warren’s forceful advances but she instead incorporated her religious beliefs. Regardless of her divorce and her objections toward political injustice she remained true to her personal conscious.

She was well-educated, wealthy, and bilingual. Authors like Quinones describer her emphasis on the importance of sustaining the elite Hispano idea. According to Otero-Warren, the best way to protect the idea female suffrage was through education. She was concerned with all social and economic classes and was a firm advocate for the conservation and tradition of farming and a craft economy. Faced with decades of animosity dating back to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo[6] Otero-Warren managed to find a window of opportunity to intertwine the common transnational happenings.

Among many some of Otero-Warren’s closest friends were, artists and writers who like her impacted the twentieth century’s progressive movement. A few influential women she befriended included, Mary Austin, Witter Byner, and Alice Henderson. Another, Mamie Meadors worked with Otero-Warren to develop “Las Dos,”[3] composed of ranch land and homes. During this period of the mid-1930s she took the time to execute her authorship in her “homestead.” In her writing, Mexicans in Our Midst: Newest and Oldest Settlers of the Southwest, she is able to illustrate the aesthetical beauty of her homeland and culture to a vast audience of Anglos.

Like her ability to diminish the gender lines revolved around suffrage she had previously crossed these lines during the Great War[2] that brought poor conditions to public health. She reached through state legislature a more accessible Department of Public Health which dealt with residential issues, child welfare. Her role as superintendent also gave her the ability to promote a positive perspective of her culture through education. Contrary to the Anglo patriarchal ideals of “Americanization,” Otero-Warren fought against assimilation and countered bias views of natives. This was crucial in all of her triumphs political, social, and economic, naming her the voice for cultural integrity and integration.

Premise for the period[edit]

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 was a treaty that outlined the border relations between the United States and Mexico.[6]

New Mexico became a state in 1848, and gradually began to promote higher education and more progressive social adjustment.

By 1881 when Otero-Warren was born the development of the railroad was booming. This new trend brought even more migrants into New Mexico, in addition it made travel much more tangible and sparked an upward course for growth in commerce.[6]

Extended relatives[edit]

Otero-Warren’s distant cousin from her paternal side, Miguel Antonio Otero II, was governor in New Mexico from 1879 to 1906 naming him the first native governor.

Alfred Maurice Bergere Otero-Warren’s step-father became a clerk of the Santa Fe Judicial District Court during 1879.

Maternal side: Nine half-siblings which she looked after when her mother died. Her mother left them a substantial amount of wealth which Otero-Warren was able to share with her siblings.[2]

Other names[edit]

  • Otero-Warren Otero - as author of article in Survey Graphic
  • Mrs. Otero-Warren - during her two-year marriage and after in order to avoid the negative attention of a divorcee
  • Nina Otero - when she published Old Spain in Our Southwest in 1936 and during her time as the superintendent of Santa Fe County Schools

Her nickname "Nina" ("child") was helped many empathize with her notions of revolutionary thinking. She was more than just a child of a newly intermingled culture; with her effective efforts she came to inherit the title her mother coined as a “motherly figure” through the title "Nina," spelled exactly the same as the Spanish word for godmother.[2][11]


  1. ^ Massmann, Ann M. "Adelina ‘Nina’ Otero-Warren: A Spanish-American Cultural Broker." Journal of the Southwest 4th ser. 42 (Winter 2000): 877-96. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Massmann, Ann M. "Adelina ‘Nina’ Otero-Warren: A Spanish-American Cultural Broker." Journal of the Southwest 4th ser. 42 (Winter 2000): 877-96. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Whaley, Charlotte. Nina Otero-Warren of Santa Fe. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Sunstone, 2008. Print.
  4. ^ a b Kelly, Kate. "Hispanic Heritage, Influential Women: Otero-Warren Otero-Warren (1881-1965),Suffragist." America Comes Alive. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.
  5. ^ a b "National Women's History Project". National Women's History Project. Archived from the original on 2009-03-07. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Gómez-Quiñones, Juan. Roots of Chicano Politics, 1600-1940. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1994. Print.
  7. ^ Ruíz, Vicki, and Virginia Sánchez Korrol. Latina Legacies: Identity, Biography, and Community. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.
  8. ^ a b c d Ruíz, Vicki, and Virginia Sánchez Korrol. Latina Legacies: Identity, Biography, and Community.New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.
  9. ^ a b Otero, Nina. Old Spain in Our Southwest. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1936.
  10. ^ "WOW Museum: Western Women's Suffrage - New Mexico". Women of the West. Archived from the original on 2009-03-07. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  11. ^ Kelly, Kate. "Hispanic Heritage, Influential Women: Otero-Warren Otero-Warren (1881-1965), Suffragist." America Comes Alive. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.

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