I love and admire strong women. I'm talking about those women who by wits, fists, or just plain will, are more than a match for man or government.
Nico Rodriguez was that kind of Texas woman. Here is her story...in her own words, as she told it to an interviewer back in the '70s.
It's a story that, though locale, ethnicity and social status will differ, is archetypal of millions of Texas women from colonial times through today. Women unknown and unsung except in the hearts of those that loved them and in the bettered lives that are their legacies across time.
I'm born in San Angelo, Texas, and raised in Brownwood. I work in the ﬁeld, picking cotton, cutting wood, shearing sheep. We were six girls and my father have only three boys.
The boys, soon as they grown up they leave - ﬂy and go - and so it was six girls and my father. I am oldest girl. You name it - I did it.
Almost nineteen, I get married. I marry because I was working too hard. I get mad. l'm not going to work like a man the rest of my life, l says to my father. I am gonna marry the ﬁrst one that asks me. So here comes one, and I see him.
I got married on Sunday by the Catholic church and I went to work on Monday, and up to this day I haven't rest! I can tell you that much. I get married on Sunday and on Monday l'm chopping cotton.
I am strong and healthy. The ﬁrst doctor l see in my life was when my ﬁrst baby come. I am so embarrassed. But I never have headache, never have backache, and l used to work from dawn ‘til dark.
Five babies come - two boys and three girls, and when they are big, I try to get work with WPA. My husband can't ﬁnd work because of the Depression.
They won't let me work on WPA. I have to ﬁght. The place where I went to put my application, they tell me that I cannot work because I'm not citizen.
I say, “How come I not citizen? I born and raised here and my father and mother. What else do you want?”
The lady call a man who say, “But you lost your citizenship when you married your husband. He is a citizen of Mexico."
l ask him, “You mean I get job only if I divorce him? What am l to be, and what are my kids to be? Give me paper to explain it to the judge why l divorce this man, because he is not citizen.”
And the man says: "I can't do that.”
So he said he'd think about it. “No time to think about it," I told him. “I want answer quick, because I'm not gonna let my kids starve to death.”
Then - two, three days later - they send me a card to report to work. He wrote to Dallas or something, and they send papers for me to sign. I go to work in the sewing room and get thirty dollars a month, and I make so many pants that they give me a raise to forty dollars a month.
When that WPA stop we go back to the ﬁelds until I press my foot down. I tell my husband. “This is it. No more ﬁeld work. We have to educate the kids. We have to stay in one place and think about them now. . . ."
We have big ﬁght, but I win. I told him if he wanted to go on the ﬁeld, to go. I stay with the kids.
And that's when I start to work in the houses, you know. I have to do housework. Have to do whatever come in. They pay one dollar a day, practically nothing...but it is enough. And I settled down on the town and since my oldest son go to school, I don't go back to the ﬁelds ever. I know my kids need the education.
My husband used to say it cost too much, but I didn't pay any attention to him. I say, "The door is open. You can walk out and walk in whenever you want, but I am not going to the ﬁelds.”
Every lady seems to like me—except one. I mean she wasn’t nasty or anything, but I didn't like it the way she act. She says, “Well, Nico, I want you to clean the whole house, iron and wash and do the windows and clean the cupboards and put in new paper. . . .”
I just look at her and I say. “You a woman . . . I a woman. Do you think you could do all that in eight hours?"
Mary Maverick knew something about feminine strength. . She was the first American woman to set up house in San Antonio. She witnessed the Council House fight, the Comanche Invasion of 1840, and knew most of the famous Texans of her day. And she tells all about it in her memoirs.