Early Societal Challenges

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, women were limited by society’s engendered constraints, including access to education, financial dependency, underrepresentation, and censorship. Only certain jobs like teaching were available for women working outside their homes. However, this changed following WWII as more women overcame these barriers to not only contribute to literature but to also clear the way by creating opportunities for fellow writers and poets in the Valley.

Photograph of Brownsville Public School Teachers

Photograph, Brownsville Public School Teachers, 1907; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth1261051/accessed March 1, 2024), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Brownsville Historical Association.

Portrait of Cleo Dawson

Portrait of Cleo Dawson (1902–1991).

Portrait of Jovita González, 1934.

Portrait of Jovita González (1904–1983).

Cleo Dawson

Cleo Dawson moved from Oklahoma to Texas where she attended school in Mission. Later she taught Spanish at Mission High School. In 1926, she married and moved to Kentucky where she earned her master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Kentucky.

In addition to her scholarly works, Dr. Dawson published the novel She Came to the Valley in 1943, which features Willy Westall as the heroine. The book was the basis for a 1978 movie of the same name.

Jovita González

Born in 1904 on her grandparents' ranch in Roma, pioneering folklorist and educator Jovita González was committed to the culture of South Texas.

After graduating UT-Austin, Jovita traveled and recorded the music and experiences of people throughout the RGV for John A. Lomax and the Works Progress Administration. She was the first Mexican-American president of the Texas Folklore Society (1930-1932) and served as president of the LULAC Council No. 1. She taught history and Spanish at W.B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi until her retirement.

As a writer, she gave realistic detail to historical fiction in books like Caballero, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, Among My People, and Dew on the Thorn.

Women Writers & Poets
Early Societal Challenges