Nina Otero-Warren: New Mexico’s very own Hispanic suffragette, champion of education, and advocate for cultural preservation

LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – Starting Tuesday, people all across the country will have the chance to see a famous New Mexican woman’s face on a special edition quarter as part of the American Women Quarters Program. Adelina Isabel Emilia Luna Otero-Warren, better known as Nina Otero-Warren, played a major role in the shaping of New Mexico during its early statehood.

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She belonged to the Luna family, after which the Village of Los Lunas is named. The famous Luna Mansion is where the prominent family spent many years living. The Luna-Oteros were among the most powerful families in New Mexico in the late 1800s and early 1900s, having descended from some of the earliest Spanish colonists in New Mexico. At one time, Nina’s mother Elouisa was the wealthiest woman in the territory.

But she made sure to use the resources she had access to, to better the state and the people in it. Most women at that time were uneducated. However, the girls in the Luna-Otero family had the opportunity to study at prestigious schools. Nina attended Maryville College of the Sacred Heart (now Maryville University). She returned home to her family when she was 13, helped educate her siblings, and contributed to the work on the family ranch, which she spoke about in her book, Old Spain in Our Southwest.

That sharing of knowledge continued her on the path to eventually serve as the first female superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools. Nina made it her mission to improve the conditions in rural Hispanic and Native American communities.

At the time, the federal government was pushing for the assimilation of Hispanic and Native American communities into a more “Anglo” version of America. While Otero-Warren pushed for both English and Spanish to be allowed in schools. As a suffragette, she wanted a more inclusive audience and worked for suffrage literature to be published in English and Spanish.

The newly released coin features the phrase “Voto para la Mujer,” which means “Votes for Women.” Also pictured on the coin are three yucca flowers–New Mexico’s state flower. Otero-Warren also was chosen to lead the lobbying effort to ratify the 19th Amendment in New Mexico.

In 1921, she won the nomination to be the Republican Party nominee for New Mexico to the US House of Representatives and was the first Hispanic woman to do so. Though she did not win the seat, she remained active by serving as Director of Adult Literacy for the New Mexico Works Projects Administration and as the Chairman of New Mexico’s Board of Health.

The Nina Otero-Warren quarter is one of five quarters that will be released this year. The quarter is a part of the American Women Quarters Program which is a four-year program that celebrates the accomplishments and contributions made by women to the development and history of the United States. Beginning in 2022, and continuing through 2025, the U.S. Mint will issue up to five new designs each year.

So far the Maya Angelou, Dr. Sally Ride, and the Wilma Mankiller quarters have been released. Following the Nina Oterro-Warren quarter, the Anna May Wong quarter will be released.