By Troy M. Ainsworth, Historic Preservation Specialist for the City of Las Cruces and Lorena Sanchez Please note: The women below are listed in no particular order. If you’d like to submit an image of one of these amazing women to include in the post, email firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Doña Ana
Although history is somewhat unsure on the namesake of the small town and county in southern New Mexico, many believe it’s in reference to Doña Ana Robledo, who is said to have died near the area while fleeing south with other settlers during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. Robledo is buried below the peak that now bears here surname in the Robledo Mountains, so named in memory of her grandfather. Robledo is referenced in Doña Ana’s historic marker. Another possible contender as namesake is Doña Ana Maria de Cordoba, who resided near the village and raised cattle.
2. Clara Belle Drisdale Williams (1885-1993)
Clara Bell Drisdale William was a long-time educator in Las Cruces and the first African-American to graduate from New Mexico A&M College (now New Mexico State University). The native Tcxan attended college in Las Cruces in 1928. Although segregated from other students, Williams desire to receive her education never wavered. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English, and despite not even being allowed to attend her own graduation, continued to attend the university in pursuit of her graduate degree. The English building on the NMSU Campus is now named after Williams.
3. Maria Gutierrez Spencer (1919-1992)
Maria Gutierrez Spencer was another dedicated educator in Las Cruces. Described as an “advocate for social justice” due to her efforts to promote bilingual and bicultural education worldwide, Spencer worked in New York and California before returning to her native Las Cruces. NMHistoricWomen.org states that Spencer worked at Las Cruces High School for 15 years, offering students an equal chance at advancing their education despite language barriers. Although her work and success made her a target for prejudice and racism, Spencer rose above it to continue her advocacy for students and to train educators.
3. Amelia May McFie (Nov.16, 1893-?)
Native Las Crucen and daughter of Judge John R. McFie, Amelia May McFie became a Territorial attorney in Doña Ana County, worked with the Santa Fe Transportation Company in Chicago and Los Angeles to promote tourism to New Mexico and Arizona in conjunction with the Fred Harvey Company. It is worth noting that it is rumored that she may have worked directly or indirectly with the great architect Mary Jane Colter, although substantiation of that claim is still needed.
4. Lela Carwardine
Little information is available about Lela Carwardine but what is known regards her involvement in aviation in the mid-1900s. During this time, relatively few women were pilots. Carwardine participated in air races exclusively for women, the so-called “powder puff” races.