Frances Nelson Vallejo, Early Latina Elected Official

Colorado—like like the other states that included territory originally settled by Spain—has had a rich tradition of Hispanic civic leaders. During Roosevelt’s New Deal a number of Spanish-speakers served as appointed and elected officials. Most were men. Frances Nelson Vallejo was a notable exception.

This portrait of Vallejo was reprinted from Colorado: Latin American Personalities, a wonderful little pamphlet published back in 1959.

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After Frances Nelson Vallejo graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1922, her parents and a teacher encouraged her to take up teaching. She did, becoming a classroom teacher in the Huerfano County schools.

In 1931, she was promoted to principal of School District Number 54.

In 1936, she became Deputy County Superintendent of Schools.

In 1940, she decided she would become a candidate for the office of County Superintendent of Schools. This was an elective job, and a tough one, particularly for a school marm and a Latin American. Her family, the Atencio’s, had settled Huerfano County in the 1869’s, and she had many friends.

She won the election—and has continued to win new terms to the important office ever since.

In 1950, she was elected president of the Colorado County Superintendent’s Association, and the same year she was a delegate to the [Truman] White House Conference on Education in Washington, D.C.

Strangely, it wasn’t until 1953—after 30 years of teaching experience—that she was finally awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Adams State College. Over the years she had attended Colorado University, Denver University, Colorado State College and Adams State.

Her son, Edmund Vallejo, is now a teacher in the Pueblo school system.

Mrs. Vallejo’s interests go beyond the schools under her jurisdiction. She has been an active member of the Democratic Party since 1934.

She has served as president of the Colorado Federation of Latin American Groups and was secretary of the Walsenburg Red Cross.

She is a sponsor of the Colorado Young Citizens League and a charter member of the Mothers-Daughter’s Club of Walsenburg. She looks toward an optimistic future for today’s youth:

“I do feel that all youth are fortunate to live in a world where work opportunities are and will be richer and more interesting for those who are prepared.”

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