Throughout her life Narcisa Monreal
Espinoza has broken the mold of traditional
roles for Latinas from her generation. Narcisa
and her twin sister Sofia were born in 1923 in
the mining town of Winkelman, Ariz. The
Monreal family finally settled in Coolidge,
where Narcisa’s mother Margarita pushed all
her daughters to graduate from high school, a
nontraditional aspiration for Mexican daughters
at the time. Against all odds in a racially
segregated community, Narcisa graduated as
salutatorian in 1941. It was the first in a lifetime
of achievements that marked her as a leader.
Narcisa immediately left the cotton
fields for Phoenix, residing with relatives
and enrolling in business school. Not content
to simply marry and stay in the home, she
worked as a bookkeeper and cashier. Doing
her part for her country, she worked as supply
clerk at Williams Air Field, east of Chandler.
In 1945 Narcisa received her “Reduction in
Force” notice from Williams and married
Jesus “J.B.” Espinoza, a Navy Seabee and her
high school sweetheart. They moved back
to the Florence/Eloy area and raised two
children, Thomas and Cynthia.
At the age of 35, Narcisa and her family
settled in Tempe. She found clerical work
with the Salt River Indian Agency’s Social
Services Branch, but didn’t stop there.
Determined to get ahead in her career,
Narcisa enrolled in Arizona State University.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology
at the age of 40, which led to a better paying
position. While completing the degree, she
became pregnant with her third daughter,
Elizabeth, born in 1967.
During the 1960s Narcisa grew into a
highly politicized and professional woman,
with a passion to end discrimination. She drew
inspiration from the Chicano movement, the
farmworker movement, and the women’s
Narcisa Monreal Espinoza
Civil Rights Pioneer
movement. She responded deeply to the
call for action because she understood the
struggle. She and J.B. joined the League of
United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
and chartered Tempe’s Council #361.
Narcisa rose quickly in the organization,
becoming State LULAC director in 1967,
the first woman to hold this position. A year
later, Narcisa won the position of National
Vice President. Later she even formed new
councils in California and Maryland.
Narcisa’s motivation, passion and
knowledge didn’t go unnoticed, and in
1968 the Equal Employment Opportunities
Commission (EEOC) tapped her to train as
an Equal Employment Officer. Two years later
Narcisa, one of very few Latinas in this position,
opened the Phoenix EEOC office as Acting
Director. Under her supervision, her office
investigated and mediated racial and gender
discrimination cases in employment. For a
decade Narcisa traveled the Valley and the state,
presenting and training on the requirements of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Narcisa particularly encouraged Latinos
to utilize civil rights legislation of the 1960s
to demand equal treatment. Revealing a
rising Chicana consciousness, she spoke
about the double discrimination of race
and gender for Latinas. As a leader of the
Phoenix chapter of La Comision Feminil
Mexicana, she encouraged Spanish speaking
women to assert their rights, to obtain
higher education to better their families,
and most importantly, to recognize their
own potential. Many organizations provided
Narcisa an audience for her eloquent speeches
on the vital role women of all races should
play in business, politics, education and more.
She later joined the National Organization for
Women, the League of Mexican American
Women, Arizona Women’s Political Caucus
and many other groups.
In her lifelong pursuit of education and
knowledge, Narcisa completed her master’s
degree in education in 1972, and seven years
later she took a job in Maryland as Chief of the
Equal Employment Complaints Department
with the Department of Health and Human
Services. She officially retired in 1983, but
continued to work as a realtor and then as a
substitute teacher into her 70s. She volunteered
many hours in Tempe to promote the Latino
community’s history and culture. Narcisa, a
proud pioneer in Arizona’s civil rights history,
celebrated her 90th birthday in 2013.
Narcisa Monreal Espinoza
Latino Perspectives Magazine and the Raul H. Castro Institute (RCI) are proud to have a role in preserving the
significant contributions made by the 2013 Arizona Latina Trailblazers. The mission of Latino Perspectives
Magazine is to provoke, challenge, and connect Latinos who are defining, pursuing, and achieving the American
Latino Dream. This mission is in concert with the Raul H. Castro Institute’s vision to improve the quality of life for
the Latino community in Arizona by bringing focus to priority issues of education, health and human services,
leadership, and civic engagement – all areas in which these Latina Trailblazers have created a tremendous and
lasting impact. Through the use of this book in educational settings and through its availability as part of the
Arizona Memory Project, their legacy will be perpetuated as generations of leaders continue to be inspired by the
spirit and actions of these pioneering women. It has been a privilege to tell their stories.
Thank you to the following sponsor for making this project possible:
Arizona Latina Trailblazers: Stories of Courage, Hope & Determination
Trailblazer Series Vol V
by Jean Reynolds, Historian
design by Alfredo Hernandez, Phoenix College
editing by Eileen Archibald, Michelle Klinger, Phoenix College
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. The publishers grant
permission to individual teachers to reproduce the contents of this book for educational purposes and classroom use.
Limit of Liability/ Disclaimer of Warranty: While the author and the publishers have used their best eforts in
preparing this publication, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness
of its contents and specifically disclaim any intent to defame or slight any people, places or organizations.
Copyright @ 2013
Latino Perspectives Media and Raul H. Castro Institute of Phoenix College
Printed in the United States of America
As educators, social workers, labor
leaders, entrepreneurs, scholars,
judicial representatives, homemakers, nurses,
ranch wives, or political representatives,
Latinas and Hispanas have long been at the
forefront of Arizona’s history. It is important
that we recognize the impact of their
individual contributions, and imperative
that their collective stories be recalled
The life journeys of these women are
filled with compelling stories that reflect
the strength of their vision, their courageous
actions, and their thoughtful advocacy. Their
outstanding leadership formed strong
cultural cornerstones, laying the foundation
for women in leadership roles today.
And so we honor them and all that they
represent, pioneers who forged our rich
cultural heritage and strong role models.
RAUL H. CASTRO
I N S T I T U T E O F
Latinas’ Stories Remain Important in Arizona‘s History
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