Saturday, March 9, 2013

Graciela Olivarez

Born this day in 1928: Graciela Olivarez (1928–1987), Latina lawyer, professor, activist, and public servant

Olivarez was born Graciela Gil in Sonora, Arizona. She dropped out of high school in order to work to support her family. She took courses at a business school and also earned an equivalency dipoloma in 1950.
She began working at a Spanish-language radio station as an engineer, director of women’s programming, dj, and host of a talk show focused on the needs and interests of Mexican Americans.
She continued her involvement in the needs of the Latino community and other ethnic minorities on an ever-increasing scale. In 1963 she organized the first national conference on education and bi-lingual programs for Mexican American students in conjunction with the President's Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime Control. In 1965 she was appointed director of Arizon’s Office of Economic Opportunity.
Under a fellowship she was able to attend the University of Notre Dame Law School and in 1970 became the first woman to earn a law degree from that institution.
Olivarez became a law professor at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, where she served as the director of the Institute for Social Research and Development. She also held various government appointment, including: vice-chair of the President's Commission on Population and the American Future (1972), New Mexico’s state planning officer (1975), and director of the Community Services Administration (1977) under President Carter—making her the highest ranking Latina in the Carter administration and the third-highest ranking woman in the federal government.

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