10 Ways the Young Lords Fought for Women's Rights

10 Ways the Young Lords Fought for Women's Rights
Wikipedia Commons

Considered outlaws in their heyday, New York's most prominent radical Latino group – the Young Lords – have recently been gifted well-deserved exhibitions at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio and Loisaida Inc.

MORE: Here's Why You Need To Visit El Museo Del Barrio This Summer

The words "We want equality for women. Down with machismo and male chauvinism" are displayed in the Bronx show, revealing a little-known fact about the Black Panthers-inspired 1970s Puerto Rican nationalist group: The unique politics of the multiracial organization included both nationalism and feminism.

Ahead, learn how the Young Lords struggle, once surveilled by the FBI and the New York Police Department, included women’s rights and liberation.

1. The Young Lords called for an end to the forced sterilization of Puerto Rican women on and off the island. In 1968, a survey revealed that one-third of all Puerto Rican women, ages 20 to 49, had been sterilized, many through coercive strategies that denied them access to informed consent. Viewing this as evidence that Puerto Ricans were targets for mass genocide through population control, the Young Lords protested against the massive sterilization program.

2. Unlike other 1960s and early 1970s nationalist organizations like the Black Panthers Party and the Nation of Islam, however, the Young Lords considered abortion a woman’s choice, and they demanded safe and legal access to the procedure. In fact, the group fought fervently for hospital reforms so that poor and minority women who wanted to terminate a pregnancy could do so without risking their own lives with inadequate and dangerous services, which were standard in public facilities in communities of color.

3. The Young Lords also fought for safe and legal contraception. Though they were anti-genocide, resisting coerced sterilizations and their women being treated like Guinea pigs for birth control research, the Young Lords understood the nuances of reproductive justice and developed a reproductive rights agenda that encompassed access to voluntary birth control.

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