Although IWD is celebrated on March 8th, there are so many women whose work has improved numerous lives throughout the world, some of who are our very own, within the IAM. Throughout the month of March, we will feature women from different parts of the world and historical eras to remind us that the women’s movement indeed has deep and long roots. Follow us as we learn together about women who have left a mark on history and society.
Luisa Capetillo was a Puerto Rican labor organizer and women’s rights activist. Her first interaction with labor unions came when she worked as a book reader at a tobacco company in Puerto Rico after the Spanish-American War. She began writing opinion essays during that time, criticizing the labor conditions tobacco workers were exposed to and advocating for women’s rights. In “Mi opinion,” she wrote: “Oh you woman! who is capable and willing to spread the seed of justice; do not hesitate, do not fret, do not run away, go forward!” By 1905, Capetillo was a leader of the American Federation of Labor and traveled throughout Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, New York City, Florida, and Cuba. She organized tobacco workers everywhere she went. She is also known as being one of the first women to use men’s clothes publicly, for which she was arrested in both Puerto Rico and Cuba.