Speaker: Vicki L. Ruiz
When President Barack Obama awarded Ruiz a National Humanities Medal, the White House citation read: “Dr. Ruiz has pioneered the history of twentieth-century Latinas in a distinguished career that began with collecting oral testimony from Mexican immigrants who worked in U.S. canning factories.”
First published in 1987, "Cannery Women, Cannery Lives" was the first scholarly book-length study devoted to the lives of Mexican women in the United States. In this presentation, she will revisit the oral histories that animated a moment in southern California history where cannery workers, primarily Mexican and Russian Jewish women, made common cause to improve their wages, benefits, and working conditions — achieving unparalleled benefits for their era and beyond. In particular, she will focus on rank and file labor leader Carmen Bernal Escobar whose recorded words recreated the cannery culture and the events that led to a successful grassroots union campaign. Furthermore, these “cannery girl” narratives lend great insight into the dreams and routines of young Mexican American women coming of age in Depression-era Los Angeles. By sharing untold stories, Ruiz seeks to honor how the past becomes memory and how memory becomes history.
Vicki L. Ruiz is Distinguished Professor of History and Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine. A first-generation college student, she graduated summa cum laude from Florida State University in 1977 where historian Jean Gould Bryant mentored her. She went on to receive a doctorate in history from Stanford University in 1982. An award-winning scholar and educator, she is the author of "Cannery Women, Cannery Lives" and "From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth- Century America" and co-author of "Created Equal: A History of the United States." She and Virginia Sánchez Korrol co-edited the three-volume "Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia," which received a 2007 “Best in Reference” Award from the New York Public Library. Over the course of her career, Ruiz has participated in numerous public history and community engagement programs, including Arizona State’s Hispanic-Mother Daughter Program and UCI’s Humanities Out There. From 2007-2012, she served as dean of the School of Humanities at UC Irvine.
In 2012 professor Ruiz was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Directing twenty-four dissertations, she has mentored four generations of graduate students from UC Davis, Claremont Graduate School, Arizona State, and UC Irvine. The National Women’s History Project named her a 2015 Honoree in recognition of her scholarship and that year she also received the UC Irvine Lauds and Laurels Faculty Achievement Award. She is the immediate past president of the American Historical Association, the flagship organization for historians across all fields representing over 14,000 members. On Sept. 10, 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Ruiz the National Humanities Medal, the eighth UC faculty member and first Latina so honored.