What does a rebel look like? Meet the Notorious ADM
When some people think of “rebels” — they might picture men on motorcycles wearing leather. Or a group of young people in tie-dyed shirts carrying protest signs.
But going forward, when you think of “rebel” — you might want to upgrade your mental imagery. Instead of leather or tie-dye: think about a woman wearing a four-strand pearl choker.
Take a look at the Alicia Dickerson Montemayor block from our Woman Who Dared block set. In the illustration, she’s wearing her classic four-strand pearl choker.
And Alicia Dickerson Montemayor was a rebel with a capital R! Alicia Dickerson was born on August 6, 1902 in Laredo, Texas. Her dad was of Irish heritage, and her mom was of Hispanic heritage.
Her parents raised her to speak both English and Spanish. Being raised bilingual in that part of Texas was almost unheard of back then.
After graduating from high school, Dickerson wanted to go to law school. But her father died, so she stayed with her mom and worked to support them both. She also went to business school at night.
When she was 25, Dickerson married Francisco Montemayor. That’s when her name changed to Alicia Dickerson Montemayor. They had two children together.
At 32, she became a social worker who investigated welfare placement cases. The Great Depression was underway. Unemployment, poverty, and racial animosity were fierce.
When she first started, some white clients refused to work with Montemayor. One time, she had to have a bodyguard to ensure her safety.
Montemayor continued to investigate Mexican-American welfare cases. Unlike other social workers, she didn’t have an office or a key to the building. Initially, she had to do her office and paper work under a tree.
When she was 34, Montemayor helped found the women's division of Laredo League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC. Her Laredo chapter was a group of about thirty women.
Though small, this group was very active. One of their more daring exploits was encouraging local women to vote.
At the time, women citizens in Texas had the right to vote. After all, the 19th Amendment was signed into law fourteen years earlier. But social conventions made women hesitant to vote. LULAC worked to get women to the polls.
This small but mighty LULAC group also helped abused children and flood victims. They raised funds for the Laredo orphanage and bought school supplies for poor children.
Their activism did not go unnoticed. In 1937, Montemayor rose from a leader in her local woman’s chapter to a leadership role for the entire national LULAC organization.
This was unprecedented. Her leadership role with LULAC made Montemayor the first woman elected to a national office not specifically designated for a woman. She was also the first woman to serve as associate editor of the national LULAC newspaper.
In her articles and editorials, Montemayor advocated for women and equality. Some articles even responded to sexist incidents within the LULAC leadership itself.
For example, one male member of the group wrote to another male leader that men didn’t like working under a woman. Montemayor wasn’t having any of that catty nonsense.
In an anonymous article in the national paper, Montemayor challenged men to be better human beings. Montemayor called those who didn’t like working under women “cowardly, ignorant and narrow minded."
She challenged any LULAC member to write an article favoring the oppression of women. No one did. No one dared.
Beyond being an activist and champion for women’s rights, Montemayor ran a dress shop. She taught at her church, organized the choir, and even received a blessing from the Pope.
And when she retired, she became a celebrated and accomplished folk artist. She often signed her works “Admonty” — a nickname made from her initials and the shortened form of her last name. She exhibited her work at cultural centers and universities throughout America.
When you think of a rebel, think of Alicia Dickerson Montemayor. Activist, feminist, and artist. Mother, wife, and pearl-wearing Catholic.
That’s ADM. She’s a woman who dared: and a woman who defied stereotypes. Because that’s how real rebels roll.