Sunday, January 10, 2016

Pauline Kibbe, a Hero during the 1940s in Texas

Originally from Pueblo, Colorado, Pauline Kibbe became a progressive figure in Texas politics advocating for Mexican American rights during the 1940s.  A major post she held was inaugural executive secretary of the Good Neighbor Commission.  Given that Texas borders 5 states with Mexico, a commission like this that promotes binationalism in order to address issues that are of mutual concern still makes sense today.

In any case, we owe much to individuals like Pauline Kibbe. As you can see from this write up from the Handbook of Texas online, she empathized with the plight of the Mexican American community and used her knowledge, power and privilege to do something about it.  That she was a state leader at a time when very few women were, is also a testament to her competence and courage.

 Angela Valenzuela



KIBBE, PAULINE ROCHESTER (1909–?). Pauline Rochester Kibbe, Latin Americanist with the Good Neighbor Commission in the 1940s, was born in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1909. She and her husband had two children. In 1939 she traveled to Mexico and then returned to San Antonio, where in 1940–41 she worked in a bilingual secretarial and purchasing service for Mexican business firms. In 1942 she wrote and produced the script for a series of twenty weekly programs on Latin America, entitled "Americans All" and broadcast over KTSA. In 1942–43 she chaired the Business and Professional Women's Club citywide Central Planning Committee for Inter-American Understanding. That year she wrote a weekly column called "Looking South" for the San Antonio Light. From 1939 to 1943 Pauline Kibbe served as field associate to the Executive Committee on Inter-American Relations in Texas. In 1943 she became the first executive secretary of the Good Neighbor Commission.
In 1944 she wrote Community Organization for Inter-American Understanding, a blueprint for institutions to participate in inter-American work. Among the objectives of the proposed organizational efforts was the promotion of Christian principles in human relations. She traveled across the state and to Mexico giving talks on inter-American affairs before Pan-American groups, women's clubs, churches, and sororities. In a typical month she participated in twenty speeches, conferences, workshops, and trips. In 1946 Kibbe wrote The Latin American in Texas. The book outlined the problems of segregation, the exploitation of agricultural workers, unfair employment practices, substandard housing, and segregation in public schools. She called for a constitutional amendment prohibiting segregation and discrimination, the institutionalization of the GNC as a permanent state agency, the abolition of the poll tax, and the reapportionment of school funds. Everett Ross Clinchy, Jr., called the book "angry." It received the Saturday Review of Literature's Anisfield-Wolf Award and was subsequently published by the Universidad Autónoma de México. A confidential document about the exploitation of undocumented labor written in 1947 led to Kibbe's departure from the GNC. She quoted United States immigration officials to the effect that employers refused workers their pay. She also protested the use of braceros because she believed that taking men away from their families caused moral problems. Her findings were reported in the Texas Spectator. Valley growers objected and Kibbe resigned, apparently under pressure. She charged authorities with imposing a "gag rule."
In 1948 she became state PAC director for the CIO. She wrote Educational Program on Latin America, published by the Phi Eta national sorority in 1943 and then by the Office of Inter-American Affairs in Washington, D.C. She wrote two brief pamphlets, Minute Guide to Speaking Spanish (1964), which went through six editions, and Guide to Mexican History (1966).
Austin American-Statesman, February 12, May 6, 1945. Good Neighbor Commission Collection, Texas State Library, Austin.

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