By Darlene Galvan
Helen Miller Bailey’s influence was remembered during a book talk with Rita Joiner Soza and a panel of guest speakers April 4 at the S2 Recital Hall.
Soza read from her book “Helen Miller Bailey: The Pioneer Education and Renaissance Woman Who Shaped Chicano(a) Leaders” and provided a summary of Bailey’s influence from Chapter 14.
Soza spoke of six of Bailey’s former students who fought for the civil rights of 10 out of thousands of women affected by the “Asexualization Act” of 1909.
Among those students, CoFounder of Telemundo, Frank Cruz and former deputy California attorney general, Richard Avila spoke on the panel.
Women were being sterilized at the LA County Hospital with no consents signed. “If some of the forms (were) signed they were only in English not Spanish, and the patients did not read English,” said Soza.
LA County General Hospital won that trial because at the time Judge Curtis, who handled the lawsuit, said poor minority women in LA County were having too many babies, Soza told the audience.
Licia Hurst was one of six on the panel at the book talk. Although Hurst never met Bailey, she is an expert on the films Bailey made during her world travels.
Some of Bailey’s films were shown at the beginning of the event. University of Southern California has 49 of Bailey’s films, and according to Hurst, East Los Angeles College donated them to USC in the 1990s without being aware of the instructor’s work mixed in with items that were included with Vincent Price’s work.
Soza said she wrote the book because she, “woke up one day and thought someone ought to write a book about (Bailey) and her life.”
Bailey had an impact on many of her students, as four members on the panel were students of hers when she taught at ELAC during the 1940s to 1970s, and several more of her students were in the audience.
The panel agreed that Bailey taught with liveliness through the use of her films and costumes during her years at ELAC.
“I want to have more programming. This book talk is going to be very casual. People can buy the book, meet and greet, we’ll have a reading and panel,” Instruction Librarian and Library Chair Erika Montenegro said.
“In 2012, I met Rita Soza during the re-opening of the renovated library and we started talking about her book on Helen Miller Bailey and on how we could introduce it to the ELAC community,” Montenegro said.
Bailey started at ELAC when the school was established. “Helen Miller Bailey taught Latin American Studies at ELAC and, because there weren’t any textbooks about Latin studies back then (1932-1974), she wrote one,” Montenegro said.
Moderated by Montenegro, the panel consisted of US Ambassador Dr. Julian Nava, co-author with Bailey and co-founder of Telemundo Frank Cruz, Licia Hurst, California Bar Board Richard Avila, author Rita Soza and ELAC Social Sciences Department Chair Dr. Marcel Morales.
The panel shared that Bailey would dress in costume when she taught. She also made 900 paintings that she sold to raise money for her students and for scholarships.
“She took films, and edited them to tell a story. She brought people into the world with her films,” said Hurst.
“Helen Miller Bailey was a renaissance woman. She traveled the world, made films of her travels, painted, photographed, wrote. She was an academic and social archivist,” said Montenegro.
The book talk followed with Soza signing autographs for fans in the lobby.
The event was sponsored by ELAC’s Helen Miller Bailey Library and the Social Sciences Department.