In 1975, Virginia Martinez and Viola Armijo Rouse, became the first Latinas to be licensed to practice law in Illinois. From 1992 to 1997, Martinez was the Executive Director for Mujeres Latinas en Accion and has also held positions for Voices for Illinois Children and the Latino Institute. Martinez is the founding mother of the DePaul University Latino Law Student Association, the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Her hard work and accomplishments make it difficult to imagine that, upon graduating from high school, Martinez had no intention of going to college.
“It was through a series of events that I took advantage of and opportunities that opened up to me and [I] ended up going to college on a full scholarship. Because of that, I believe that I owe the community, I owe the public for my education,” said Martinez.
Martinez who proudly calls herself a feminist, spends a lot of her time talking to youth about making sure doors are open for them and to make sure they take advantage of any opportunity they have to continue their education.
“They need to have their opportunities in education. I think little girls growing up now should be able to dream about being anything. That wasn’t true a couple of generations ago … I think we owe it to our sons, as well as our daughters, to create a society where there’s equality and everyone has the opportunity to use their skills to the best of their abilities,” she said.
Martinez has received numerous awards and recognition including Today’s Chicago Woman, One Hundred Women Making a Difference in Chicago, YWCA Achievement Award for Community Service, and Cook County State’s Attorney El Humanitario Award. She has also been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation.
In spite of a busy schedule, Martinez explains that she always finds time to be with her family and advises others to do the same.
“Balance your life. You can’t work day and night. Family plays such an important role in our community and we need to make sure that we make the time for it.”
This post is also available in: Spanish
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