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Jennifer Bickham Mendez Papers

Identifier: MS 00238

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Scope and Contents

This collection details the vast women’s labor movement in Central America (mostly concentrating on Nicaragua) in the 1990s and early 2000s as a part of Dr. Jennifer Bickham Mendez’s dissertation research. The collection includes newspaper clippings, secondary source articles, publications from various women’s labor organizations in Central America, personal field notes and contacts, along with many other materials pertaining to her research. Dr. Bickham Mendez’s research acquainted her with many women’s labor organizations, giving her an opportunity to explore the work being done in Nicaragua related to women’s working conditions and human rights. A majority of her research focused on zonas francas, specific areas within Nicaragua and other Central American countries that face inhumane working conditions in maquilas, or factories that export their manufactured goods to other countries. As the collection progresses, Dr. Bickham Mendez contributed material related to the feminist movement in Nicaragua, including various pamphlets and brochures that discuss various feminist topics such as domestic violence, reproductive health rights, and machismo/toxic masculinity. The collection concentrates on specific women’s right organizations that organize around establishing better working conditions for women in these maquilas as well as the national and international responses that resulted from these organizations.


  • Creation: circa 1990-2005


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from the Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. Jennifer Bickham Mendez compiled this collection while writing her History dissertation at the University of California, Davis. She spent significant time in Central America, especially Nicaragua, in order to conduct her research on women’s labor movements throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Her dissertation research would be published in her first book, From the Revolution to the Maquiladoras: Gender, Labor and Globalization in Nicaragua, in 2005. Since then, her work has focused on questions of Latino identity, immigration, social and labor movements, and border studies. Dr. Bickham Mendez arrived at William and Mary in 1999 as an Assistant Professor and has held various leadership positions within the university since. Currently, Dr. Bickham Mendez serves as a Professor of Sociology and Director of the Global Studies Program at William & Mary.


2.92 Linear Feet


Series 1: María Elena Cuadra’s work in the women’s labor movement, circa 1994-2006 This series extensively covers information pertaining to the María Elena Cuadra organization in supporting the women’s labor movement in Nicaragua. Reports written by and about this labor organization provide an understanding regarding their work and their ability to cause change. These reports cover the working conditions, economic role of women in Nicaragua, and successes of María Elena Cuadra in raising the voices of women laborers in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Series 2: María Elena Cuadra’s La Boletina publications, 1994-2004 This series contains various published pamphlets from María Elena Cuadra ranging from 1994-2004. These pamphlets discuss many women’s issues that directly relate to the labor movement and work conditions, including sex and sexual health, women’s rights, and gender violence.

Series 3: Other Nicaragua voices related to women’s labor movements, 1974-2001 This series shows how Nicaraguan voices outside of María Elena Cuadra were examining the labor conditions and efforts to combat exploitation in Nicaragua. Various annual reports and materials published by other organizations demonstrate just how pervasive this issue was all throughout Nicaragua.

Series 4: International voices related to Central American women’s labor movements, 1992-2003 This series highlights perspectives outside of Nicaragua discussing labor conditions and movements throughout Central America. Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are also covered as areas undergoing labor reform. Many of these sources write about the labor exploitation in Central America and how to combat it from afar.

Series 5: Newspaper clippings and public documents regarding the labor situation in Central America, 1993-2001 Various newspaper clippings, laws, and reports that examine the labor problem in Central American during this time. More of the newspaper clippings discuss the exploitation and worsening labor conditions of those working in maquilas in Nicaragua in the mid-1990s. Other information within this series consider zonas francas and proposed changes to laws that regulate working conditions.

Series 6: Secondary source material that contextualize the labor fight This series contains secondary source materials that Dr. Bickham Mendez used when writing her dissertation. A full list of secondary sources related to labor movements and the Nicaraguan case study can be found in this series. All of the material in the series could not be found on WorldCat, but all publications available to William and Mary community members do not appear in the collection and are available on WorldCat.

Series 7: Dr. Bickham Mendez’s personal notes and material, 1993-1997 This series highlights all of Dr. Bickham Mendez’s personal field notes and work while abroad in Central America. It includes personal correspondence with Nicaraguan labor contacts and her writing in different stages of her dissertation process.

Processing Information

Materials have been arranged in alphabetical order according to subject.

Guide to the Jennifer Bickham Mendez Papers
Tyler Goldberger, SCRC Graduate Apprentice
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository