Women Activists & Civic Leaders

Undated photograph of Daria Vera

Daria Vera. Image found on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Daria Vera

Daria Vera (1946–2020) participated in the iconic Melon Strike of 1966, which led to the "La Marcha" from Rio Grande City to Austin (July–September 1966). She and others organized and joined forces with the United Farmworkers of America to draw attention to the deplorable working conditions and meager pay of farm workers from California to Texas.

Vera began working in the fields at age 8 where she did not have access to drinking water or restrooms. At age 20, Vera and over 400 farm workers in Rio Grande City went on strike at La Casita Farms to protest inhumane working conditions and unfair wages.

Vera was arrested in October 1966 after she and 14 others laid down on the international bridge in Roma to block Mexican migrant workers from crossing and breaking a strike.

Gladys Porter and chimpanzee.

Gladys Porter and friend. Image found on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Gladys Porter

Gladys (Sams) Porter (1910–1980) was daughter of Earl C. Sams, the first president of the J.C. Penney retail stores. She and her sister Camille Lightner administered Earl C. Sams Foundation which provided funding to the City of Brownsville for the Gladys Porter Zoo to open in 1971.

During her travels in Africa, Porter became interested in the conservation of world wildlife. Her love for animals manifested itself in the creation, building, and daily operation of the zoo. Porter also served as the first president for the Valley Zoological Society for 11 years.

Gladys Porter was also a founding member of the Brownsville Junior Service League (1939), which remains active today.

Portrait of Camille (Sams) Lightner.

Portrait of Camille Lightner. Image courtesy of Camille Playhouse and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Camille Lightner

Camille (Sams) Lightner (1913-1962), daughter of Earl C. Sams and sister of Gladys Porterboth, was active in charitable work.

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, she grew up in New Rochelle, New York and graduated from Connecticut College for Women (1934). Camille came to the Rio Grande Valley for a family visit in 1933, where she met her future husband Larry Lightner.

Theatre was among Camille's many great loves. She was a regular performer with the annual Junior Service League  Follies, and had a great voice for the stage. The Camille Playhouse in Brownsville, Texas is named for her.

Women Activists & Civic Leaders