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The Other Gender in the Zoot Suit: Pachucas and their Place in Society

By James Phillips

June 30, 1943

Los Angeles, California– In recent events, 28 men have been arrested over a clash with local servicemen. The majority of these men were of Mexican decent.[i] Zoot Suiters have become an increasing problem in this city, especially with the influx of Mexican-American immigrants seen in California over the past couple of decades.[ii] Seen with a long coat and high-waisted and baggy pants made with excessive material, Zoot Suiters cannot be missed in this time of simplicity due to the war. The suit makes one stand out and is often associated with African-Americans and Mexican-Americans. Gang members are also associated with this attire, which includes these minority races. Though much attention has been given to the men in the zoot suits, not much is known about the women.[iii]

Known as Pachucas, women Zoot Suiters can be identified just the same as their male counterparts are. They often wear loud clothing such as a long-shouldered coat, a pleated skirt, fishnets, and platform shoes. Pachucas are typically associated with Mexican-American gangs, however, this is not always the case. “It is hard to be a Mexican-American woman in this society,” began Ms. Maria Alvarado, “we Mexican women find this Pachuca attire to be the style in our part of the city, however, when we dress this way, we are associate with gangs simply because we are Mexican and not white.”[iv]


Above: A Pachuca and her style [x].

Mrs. Olivia Oldman, a citizen of Los Angeles who lives in the same section of the city as Ms. Alvarado, had a different opinion. “These zoot suiters are disrespectful in the way that they dress and act. We are in a war! To dress so flamboyantly is unpatriotic in my opinion, especially in respect to the women who should be showing support for our men on the warfront.”[v]

Pachucas are also barely accepted within their own Mexican-American society. “I immigrated here in 1920 with my husband, Rafael,” said Mrs. Consuela Lopez. “We have worked hard to merge with American society and to be accepted. This has all been undone by Pachucas who make our culture seem as if we are nothing but hoodlums and troublemakers.”[vi]

When this statement was presented to an anonymous Pachuca, the response was interesting. “We know that we aren’t accepted in this America society, so why try to conform? Why should I work so hard to fit in and be a good American when it is obvious that I stand out? I’m proud to be a Pachuca and if anyone has a problem with that, then they can come talk to me.” A threat that almost goes perfectly with the loud style that was worn by this anonymous individual.[vii]


Above: Pachucas gather and hang out [ix].

When asked why Pachucas have not been featured much in societal papers before, the answer was simple. “We are women.” Mrs. Cloe Villanueva said. “Showing us in the papers only gives us power and identity, and no one wants to do that, right?”[viii]

In the midst of this World War, this part of American society, if it is even American at all, is most definitely out of place. Whereas most men are off fighting for Uncle Sam and women are working hard and living simple lives, Pachucos are not participating in the war effort due to criminal records, and Pachucas are hardly working and are dressing differently than other women in America. No one knows how long this zoot suit trend will last, however, it is important for one to know that there is not just one gender wearing the suit, but rather two.

[i].  The New York Times, “28 Zoot Suiters Seized on Coast After Clashes With Service Men.” June 7, 1943: 15.


[ii].  Elizabeth R Escobedo, From Coveralls to Zoot Suits: The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II Home Front, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013), 5.

[iii].  Catherine S. Ramirez, Women in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism, and the Culture of Politics of Memory, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009), 55-56.

[iv]. This is a fictional quote, however, it is based upon research. Ibid, 55-58.

[v].  This is a fictional quote, however, it is based upon research. Kathleen Campos-Banales, The Zoot Suits, 1940s, n.d. (accessed October 20, 2015).

[vi]. This is a fictional quote, however, it is based upon research.  Elizabeth R. Escobedo, “The Pachuca Panic: Sexual and Cultural Battlegrounds in World War II Los Angeles,” The Western Historical Quarterly, 2007: 134-136.

[vii]. This is a fictional quote, however, it is based upon research. Ibid, 134-136.

[viii].  This is a fictional quote, however, it is based upon research. Catherine S. Ramirez, Women in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism, and the Culture of Politics of Memory, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009), 144-145.

[ix]. Picture taken from

[x]. Picture taken from

[xi]. Cover Picture taken from


An Evening Meal with Mrs. Alva Belmont

By Zachary James

December 10, 1917

For the past few years, Mrs. Alva Belmont has been a contributor to the Women’s Suffrage Movement here in New York City. Though a latecomer to the game, she has helped give a voice to the cause through her answers to false newspaper articles and through her own writings which have also been published in newspapers.[1] Mrs. Belmont has also hosted several events at her home to increase awareness for the suffrage cause. She is also the President of her suffrage group called the Political Equality Association, which was formed in 1909, and she is the Chairman for the New York branch of the National Woman’s Party.[2] Being that before her active role as a suffragist she was more known as a popular socialite, I asked to sit down with her to an evening meal in her home so as to understand how this woman came to be one of the leading champions of the suffrage movement today.[3]

I was surprised from the beginning that Mrs. Belmont accepted my invitation for an interview. Being that I am a male and a journalist for a newspaper that she is constantly sending opinionated letters to, I was intrigued at the invitation to dine with her at her infamous dwelling Marble House, which is located in Newport, Rhode Island. Marble House has been the rallying point for several suffrage meetings and has recently been the location of several major suffrage events. Being that the house was designed by Mrs. Belmont, it was given to her upon her divorce from William K. Vanderbilt and was inactively used until it was reopened after the death of her second husband, Oliver H.P. Belmont. According to Mrs. Belmont, the house is considered to be one of her greatest works as she helped design it and fill it with fine décor. Today, the house is considered to be a form of amusement as one may participate in a tour of the house for a fee of five dollars.[4]


Above: Mrs. Belmont hosts a suffrage rally at her home, Marble House in 1914. [18]

            So as not to create a situation of indecency, our meal was chaperoned by one of Mrs. Belmont’s friends who would like to remain anonymous. Prior to the meal, Mrs. Belmont, her anonymous friend, and I sat in the front parlor of Marble House and talked as we waited for dinner to be announced.[5] As we waited, I asked Mrs. Belmont of her past and how she got to where she was today regarding women’s rights. As it is publically known, she was married before to William K. Vanderbilt, who was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, from 1875-1895. During this time, Mrs. Belmont worked on gaining a public image by hosting several balls and small parties. After nearly a decade of working hard, Mrs. Belmont was welcomed into New York high society with her infamous costume ball of 1883. In 1895 she shocked the world by daring to divorce her husband on the grounds that he was an adulterer. Within a year she had remarried Oliver H. P. Belmont and still kept her place as a socialite.[6]

It wasn’t until the unfortunate death of Mr. Belmont in 1908 that Mrs. Belmont decided to focus on the suffrage movement. When asked why it had taken her so long to fight for equality for women, she had no answer. I asked her if it was related to the death of her second husband to which she replied, “Though the timing is coincidental, I would rather not discuss this subject. What matters now is that I work very hard each day to get women the equality that they deserve.” Indeed she does. Mrs. Belmont has been known to donate much of her money to the suffrage cause in both Europe and the United States of America.[7]

Not long after this, the bell rang and dinner was announced by Mrs. Belmont’s butler. We were lead to the dining room of the house which was elegantly decorated for the upcoming Christmas holiday. Once seated by two footmen, we were served a glass of wine and presented with a starting course of tomato soup. Mrs. Belmont had planned a small four course meal made by her two cooks who resided at Marble House.[8] During this first course I asked Mrs. Belmont about her news articles that she had written in recent months. The one that stood out to her the most was her article on picketing the White House, which was published in The New York Times. “Picketing is being portrayed as an indecent act, which it is not. Picketing is merely an advanced form of demonstration which we women feel we have had to pick up in recent months,” said Mrs. Belmont. When asked why picketing was necessary, Mrs. Belmont replied with “the government is not listening to women and our desires for equality. Until our demands are met, what other way can we get the attention of our President or congressmen?”[9]

Though the course of the meal changed to Fricassee of Lamb, riced potatoes, and stewed tomatoes, the topic did not.[10] “For decades any act that women have made towards the fight for suffrage has been condemned. Street meetings are condemned. Processions and parades are condemned. Even conventions are condemned. We are running out of options on portraying our desire for women’s suffrage and we will not allow picketing to be made a condemnation as well,” I asked Mrs. Belmont what made her decide to write a letter regarding the subject of picketing and why she was passionate about her argument. “I wrote that letter because on several occasions I heard negative comments regarding picketing, and I received letters asking me what it stood for,” said Mrs. Belmont. “I knew that if I wrote a letter for the nation and had it published in a major newspaper such as The New York Times then maybe I could help end the negative ideas centered on picketing.”[11]

I then asked Mrs. Belmont why she was so passionate about women’s suffrage in general. Just as she was about to answer, our plates were taken away and our third course meal of string bean and radish salad was presented.[12] Mrs. Belmont raised her glass to ask for more wine, and then she spoke passionately about the cause that she had increasingly become involved with. “Well, I have always felt that women were just as equal as men, even as a little girl. I would often fight with the neighborhood boys growing up who teased me for being a woman,” Mrs. Belmont said.[13] “I also think being educated in Europe helped me see the possibilities that women have which are not presented to them here in the United States as they are elsewhere. Women in today’s time are essentially inferior to men. We asked for legal right to share our children and were denied. Though women bring children into this world, it does not matter. Women have asked for equality in vote, pay, and respect, yet according to several newspapers, equal rights for both men and women could lead to disastrous effects.” I then asked her what effects she was referencing to. “According to several articles that I have read, equality for women would lead to them being unsexed and becoming more masculine. There is a fear that women will neglect their homes, their children, and their husbands if they are given equality. Of course this is all absurd and entirely offensive to women,” Mrs. Belmont said.[14]

We ended our meal with fruits and nuts and a small cup of café noir. The rest of the conversation in the dining room was centered on Mrs. Belmont’s stories from past suffrage events and on other news articles that she had submitted. Not long after, our party retired to the parlor once more where we were served a small serving of champagne punch.[15]  Mrs. Belmont stood by the warm fire for a few moments before seating herself. As she stood, I analyzed the strong woman in front of me. Beauty was still present, even in her elder age. Though short, she had a disposition about herself that made her seem much taller. A simple glance at Mrs. Belmont would set the definition of what it means to be an independent woman. Despite her fine attire of dress and furs imported from her favorite city, Paris, France, one could see she was a hardworking woman in her fight for equality.[16]


Above: Mrs. Alva Belmont gives a speech. [19]

            After being warmed by the fire, Mrs. Belmont moved to an open seat to my right where we continued our discussion on women’s suffrage. I asked her where she saw herself in the movement in the future to which he responded, “Only God knows. I often wonder if I have any worth in this movement and if I am truly appreciated. Nevertheless, I continue to fight for feminism through the use of journalism and through the various activities I host here in my home. I will say though that I often find myself missing Paris and I do think I can see myself living there permanently one day.” Her moment of small self-esteem passed quickly and she talked about her new life. “Since Oliver’s passing in 1908, I haven’t had a day of boredom. I have put all my energy into this movement and I try to use my place in society to influence and support the cause of women’s rights. Some see it as a complete nuisance and others see me as a bored widow. Society may talk as it wishes, for I know what I am accomplishing,” Mrs. Belmont said.[17]

The clock struck eleven o’clock and I knew my visit was over. I rose, kissed Mrs. Belmont’s hand, and thanked her for a lovely evening of entertainment. She thanked me in return for allowing her to educate me on women’s suffrage. I was then invited to attend her next suffrage event to be held in the new year of 1918. As a male journalist, the invitation intrigued me and I graciously accepted. I was then escorted out by the nearest footman. As I looked back at the beautiful mansion that was Marble House, I thought of the woman that occupied the home and how despite some insecurities she was a strong and independent individual. My evening with Mrs. Belmont proved to be interesting as I learned more about the suffrage movement, where it currently stands, and where it is headed. At first glance one would not think that this woman draped in expensive fineries would be a hardworking woman, however, my evening with Mrs. Alva Belmont proved to me that one’s social status and appearance doesn’t always say everything about one’s character.

[1]. Sylvia D. Hoffert, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont: Unlikely Champion of Women’s Rights (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2012), ix-xi, 27, 99.

[2]. Hoffert, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, 27, 76-77.; The Preservation Society of Newport County, Marble House, 2015, (accessed October 10, 2015).

[3]. Buell, Janet W. “Alva Belmont: From socialite to feminist.” Historian, 1990: 219-225.

[4].; Hoffert, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, 103.; Janet W Buell, “Alva Belmont: From socialite to feminist,” Historian, (1990), 219.

[5]. Hoffert, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, 180. Throughout Hoffert’s biography it is noted that Belmont had a lady’s companion upon her husband’s death.

[6].  Amanda Mackenzie Stuart, Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age, (New York: Harper Collins, 2005,) 281-286; Hoffert, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, 125.

[7]. Stuart, Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt, 360.

[8].  Fannie Farmer, Farmer’s Cookbook (Boston: Little Brown, 1918),

[9]. Alva Belmont, “Excuses for White House Picketing: A Statement in Extenuation from Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont, of the National Woman’s Party,” The New York Times, July 9, 1917: 8.

[10].  Farmer, Farmer’s Cookbook,

[11].  Alva Belmont, “Excuses for White House Picketing: A Statement in Extenuation from Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont, of the National Woman’s Party,” The New York Times, July 9, 1917: 8.

[12]. Farmer, Farmer’s Cookbook,

[13]. Stuart, Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt, 25-26.

[14].  Alva Belmont, “Mrs. Belmont’s Views: She Says the Twelve States in Which Women Vote Refute Anti’s Arguments,” The New York Times, February 14, 1914: 1. ; Buell, “Alva Belmont: From socialite to feminist.” Historian, 219-220.

[15].  Farmer, Farmer’s Cookbook,

[16]. Stuart, Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt, 358-368.; Hoffert, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, 125.; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Portraits of Alva E. Belmont, 1911 and c.1919,

[17].  Alva Belmont was described as very insecure and bored with life despite her independence. This is found in Hoffert, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, 189-192. Belmont did eventually move to Paris, France and died there in 1933.



[20]. Headline picture:

Sorority Life at University: A Temporary Fad, or Here to Stay?

By Laura Kathryn Fields and John Phillip White

February 13, 1908

University of Nebraska- Lincoln— In recent years our college has seen the establishment of several sororities. In May 1884, the first sorority to form was Kappa Kappa Gamma followed by the establishments of Delta Gamma in 1888, Delta Delta Delta in 1894, Pi Betta Phi in January 1895, Chi Omega in February 1903, Alpha Omicron Pi in June 1903, Alpha Phi in October 1906, and finally, Alpha Chi Omega in November 1907.[i] One can’t help but to wonder why exactly these secret societies are gaining popularity within our university. Are they beneficial? Do they help a young lady gain societal connections? Do they help women prepare for house and home? These are the questions that several young women ask when they are faced with the opportunity to pledge themselves to one of these societies. This article shall address what exactly sororities are, why they were founded at this school, and whether or not they are beneficial for young women.

Since women have been allowed admittance into the University of Nebraska, they have been faced with the challenge of proving to their male counterparts that they are worthy of obtaining a college education alongside them.[ii] Even a few decades after the first women stepped on campus, there is still a feeling of annoyance that women are at the same university as men. According to biology major Jack Brown, “women should remain at home. There is no need for a woman to be on this campus as long as they have a decent husband to provide for them.”[iii]


Above: The Women of Omega Chi. [ix].

Though several men on campus feel this way, some are open to the idea. The fraternities on campus are one of the more open minded groups of gentlemen when it comes to women participating in college affairs. According to a Kappa Sigma Fraternity member, Matthew Houseman, “having women on campus does not bother me. In fact, our fraternity regularly interacts with several of the sororities here on campus as we enjoy putting on skits together for the campus.”[iv]

No matter which view you take, admittance for women here at the college is not going to end. This leads to the question of how sororities have formed here and why they are seen as so important to the young women at the university. According to recently admitted Alpha Chi Omega member, Ruth Blanchard, “the men have their fraternities of brotherhood and we women want our circles of sisterhood. If we are not permitted to join these secret male societies, then we women must make up our own.”[v]

Based on several interviews conducted with female students who are members of these secret societies, the reason for joining a sisterhood is not merely for social reasons. These sororities were founded long ago to give women a safe haven from male ideologies regarding college admittance. At the time of the first sorority creation, women, though allowed to attend some universities, were not allowed to join many campus organizations including literary circles, student government, and special study groups that contained male members. In response to this, several women decided to come together to form these societies so that education could be obtained through more than just sitting in a male dominated classroom. Essentially, sororities became a support group for women attending university where their presence wasn’t most welcome.[vi]


Above: Inside the Delta Delta Delta House on campus. [x].

To answer the questions asked earlier in this article, the benefits of joining a sorority appear to be based on one’s needs. If one is a young woman who is looking for a support group while at university, then perhaps pledging is a generous idea. Some men view the idea of sorority life as hampering a women’s value in the home, however, some men disagree entirely.[vii] In recent years, there has been an argument regarding all fraternities and sororities and whether they should even exist on campus.[viii] Regardless, based on the growing numbers seen on campus, it appears that sororities are here to stay.

[i].  University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2015. (accessed September 29, 2015).

[ii].  Diana B. Turk, Bound by a Mighty Vow: Sisterhood and Women’s Fraternities, New York City: NYU Press, 2004, 260-265.


[iii]. This quote is not a real quote but is based on some male sentiment of coeducation during the time of this fictional article. Claudia Golden and Lawrence F. Katz, “Putting the “Co” in Education: Timing, Reasons, and Consequences of College Coeducation from 1835 to the Present,” Journal of Human Capital, 2011: 377-417.

[iv]. Claudia Golden and Lawrence F. Katz, “Putting the “Co” in Education: Timing, Reasons, and Consequences of College Coeducation from 1835 to the Present,” Journal of Human Capital, 2011: 377-417.; Craig LaRon Torbenson and Gregory Parks, Brothers and Sisters: Diversity in College Fraternities and Sororities, Cranbury, New Jersey: Associated University Press, 2009, 15-25.

[v]. This quote is not a real quote but is based on research.  Omaha Daily Bee, “Sorority Girls and Their Life at the University of Nebraska,” May 14, 1911: 1-3.; Turk, Bound by a Mighty Vow, 260.

[vi]. Ibid.

[vii]. Claudia Golden and Lawrence F. Katz, “Putting the “Co” in Education: Timing, Reasons, and Consequences of College Coeducation from 1835 to the Present,” Journal of Human Capital, 2011: 377-417.

[viii].  Alpha Sigma Alpha Sorority, Anti-Sorority Sentiment, 2015. (accessed September 30, 2015).



[xi]. Headline picture taken from

Mrs. Mary Ensign’s Stance on Female Spies

June 30, 1862

Richmond, Virginia

We often think of this war as being a man’s war and in many cases, it is. While our men are off fighting our aggressor, the North, we women are left at home to tend to the home and raise our children to be the future of the Confederacy.[i] However, since this war has begun we have seen women participating in various activities outside of the home, especially the young women in our society. Women are now working as nurses, clerks in our capitol of Richmond, and even as spies for the Confederate Army.[ii] Another activity that the ladies of our society are engaging in is acting as spies. These women are some of the most educated and accomplished in our Southern society and are often known to use assumed names to trick Northern officers.[iii]

Our Southern women are very educated and like to discuss slavery, secession, and states’ rights. As the war has progressed, the idea of using their knowledge has progressed into the idea that these women can take on a previously known male role—spying on the enemy in disguise.[iv] Though knowledge is most important, our Southern Women have several attributes that make them appealing for the task at hand. This includes religion as all are good Christians who know that God is aligned with the South. These women will stand up for the Confederacy and His people which is why several of our young women have found the need to join the fight for the Confederate States of America. Their desires to aid the Cause are not wrong as several Southern Ministers have all deemed the involvement of women in this war to be sanctioned by God. By being brought up religious, these women already have the strength of God on their side which only makes their missions more achievable.[v]

A most notable spy that the South has recognized in recent months is the proficient Mrs. Rose O’Neal Greenhow. Mrs. Greenhow has been a widow for some time in Washington greenfpand recently had been placed under house arrest in her home for aiding the Confederacy. Through hosting several parties and events where Union officers were in attendance, Mrs. Greenhow learned of several pieces of classified information that was immediately given to Confederate officials. One important act that the South owes to this accomplished woman is her alert to Confederate officers of Union military movement prior to the Battle of Manassas nearly a year prior on July 21, 1861. Mrs. Greenhow’s whereabouts are not known at this time, however, her actions are not unnoticed and are an example as to what female spies can do for the Confederate Army.[vi]

A great advantage that female spies have in this war are their lovely appearances and charm. It is known that the enemy often finds fondness for an attractive face, which makes our beautiful belles easy to retrieve information in secret and return back to the Confederacy.[vii] It has been reported that Union soldiers will often dally with women they find enticing at dinner parties and social gatherings. If a lady is found enticing enough then they often will be invited to an outing with said soldiers, and these outings can often include the exchange of secrets or even the tour of a Union fortification. It has increasingly become easier for Union regiment names and numbers to be divulged as a female spy simply uses her charm to obtain the information.[viii]

Therefore, this nation needs to embrace the idea of women working for our great Confederacy. There are many advantages to using our accomplished females in this fight for freedom. We have raised our women to be God-fearing, educated, and charming and their talents should be used in profitable ways. Female spies can aid our military which in turn will assist in the desire for a victorious war and a freestanding Confederate States of America.

[i]. Lisa Tendrich Frank, Women in the American Civil War, (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2008), 5-7.

[ii]. Ibid, 26-27.

[iii]. Ibid, 28-29.; The Daily Dispatch. “Southern Female Spies– Miss Belle Boyd,” July 26, 1862, 7, (accessed August 27, 2015).

[iv]. Lisa Tendrich Frank, Women in the American Civil War, 29-31.; Susan Marie Boya, “Women’s activism during the American Civil War, 1861—1865,” (2006), 45-46, Order No. 1436480, Roosevelt University,

304924153?accountid=7139. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

[v]. Lisa Tendrich Frank, Women in the American Civil War, 33.

[vi]. Smithsonian Institute. Rose O’Neal Greenhow. n.d. (accessed August 30, 2015).

[vii].  Lisa Tendrich Frank, Women in the American Civil War, 31-32.; The Daily Dispatch, “Southern Female Spies– Miss Belle Boyd”, July 26, 1862, 7.

[viii]. Lisa Tendrich Frank, Women in the American Civil War, 31-32.; The Daily Dispatch, “Southern Female Spies– Miss Belle Boyd”, July 26, 1862, 7.

Images: Article Headliner:

Picture of Mrs. Rose O’Neal Greenhow:

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