Women History Month Spotlight: Felicitas Mendez

Submitted by Ja'Dell Webster Intern at the Office of Inclusive, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Accountability
March 11, 2021 - 5:36 pm

Mendez was a civil rights activist and pioneer in the desegregation of United States public schools. Mendez moved to a small town in Westminster, CA to buy a farm with her husband and provide a better life for her three children. She found that the school district was segregated and not welcoming to her children. Mendez rounded up a committee in support and sued Westminster school district among others under the lawsuit Mendez v. Westminster. In 1946, the federal district court ruled in Mendez’s favor. The school board appealed the ruling and Mendez was joined in the fight by several civil rights organizations, to include ACLU, NAACP (represented by Thurgood Marshall) and others. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling and the California Governor moved to desegregate all public schools.

Mendez’s case set the stage for Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that segregation of U.S. public schools was unconstitutional in 1954.

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Notable person in Women's History Month, Felicitas Mendez