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Politics

What's At Stake In 2020? Educator Laura Alcorta Worries Progress Toward Women's Rights Will Be Lost

Laura Alcorta strives to be a role model for younger generations of women, especially her 6-year-old granddaughter, Mia.
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
Laura Alcorta strives to be a role model for younger generations of women, especially her 6-year-old granddaughter, Mia.

Throughout her lifetime, Laura Alcorta, a retired educator, has witnessed a shift toward gender equality in the United States. She’s seen women make strides in the workplace and abortion rights gain more protections. Now, in the 2020 election season, she’s worried some of this progress will be erased.

“By voting, women need to understand that that's paying a tribute to the women before us and the sacrifices they made,” Alcorta said. “It’s our opportunity to step up.”

At a Tuesday morning women’s group, Alcorta and her friends sit on her neighbor’s porch in Lago Vista wearing face shields and face masks, some with the words “voting matters” across the front. 

“I brought my copy of the Constitution,” says one of the women, waving a pocket copy in the air. The women laugh and dive into a discussion about the Equal Rights Amendment and U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

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Alcorta values these weekly meetings. She has always been politically active, and says she feels a duty as a senior citizen to find ways to encourage people to vote and be informed.

“I don't want women to be complacent because I think that has been our role for a long time,” she said.

Alcorta grew up in Laredo in a family of seven girls. She remembers that her parents were forward-thinking among their community at the time, supporting their daughters’ pursuits of higher education. But there were still limitations. 

Laura Alcorta (top right) and her family in 1969.
Credit Courtesy of Laura Alcorta
Laura Alcorta (top right) and her family in 1969.

“I really liked math, and I told my dad that I wanted to be like him,” Alcorta said. “I wanted to go and study and become an accountant. And he looked at me. He said, ‘Oh, no. Accounting is not for women. You need to become a teacher.’ And that was the first time I realized – wow. I had never thought of it like that. That because of my gender, I had to be separated from what I really wanted to do.”

Throughout her career as an educator, Alcorta became more vocal. As the director of federal programs for a Central Texas school district, she noticed less affluent schools in the district lacked technology. When she presented a plan to close this gap to the superintendent and director of technology, she was dismissed. 

“They were all men at the time,” Alcorta said. “They were taken back and said, ‘Oh, I don't think that's possible. Nobody's ever done that before.’”

But she persevered.

“I got it done,” she said, teary-eyed. “It was something in my soul that drove me.”

Laura Alcorta meets every Tuesday with a group of women to discuss politics and what's going on in the world.
Credit Julia Reihs / KUT
/
KUT
Laura Alcorta meets every Tuesday with a group of women to discuss politics and what's going on in the world.

In her retirement, Alcorta strives to be a role model for younger women — especially her 6-year-old granddaughter, Mia, whom she reads books about Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Alcorta said she hopes key rulings such as Roe v. Wade will not be reversed, so her granddaughter and others won’t lose what other women have fought for.

She said she values putting someone in office who will preserve the strides taken toward gender equality. She has already cast her ballot by mail.

“We have to just keep going and keep pushing with our hope and our voices,” she said. “This is our equalizer.”

Leading up to Election Day, KUT is showcasing different perspectives from Central Texans on what’s driving them to vote. Keep coming back to KUT.org for more stories about issues affecting local voters.

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