Skip to main content

Hilda A. Hidalgo, PhD - Papers

Identifier: 2009-02

Scope and Contents

The Hilda A. Hidalgo, PhD – Papers contain materials documenting both her personal and professional life. The papers documenting her professional life contain her academic writings, which include drafts of articles for publication, monograph manuscripts, her master’s thesis, the materials submitted for completion of her doctorate degree, case notes from her social work, speeches, keynote addresses and conference proceedings; and her academic curriculum planning, which include program proposals and complimentary materials, such as funding requests and accreditation evaluations, for two graduate level programs, the Experimental Master of Social Work for Bilingual/Bicultural Hispanics Program and the Master of Public Administration Program for Hispanic Administrators, both at Rutgers-Newark. There are multiple editions of the documents, showing the progression of the planning from their initial stages to the finalized proposals submitted to Rutgers University. Papers, photographs and VHS recordings documenting the implementation of the programs, lesson plans, and the students and other faculty who took part are also present. Hilda Hidalgo’s political and community activism are amply recorded, primarily through the various speeches she gave, as well as her large collection of pin-back buttons; also of note are the records documenting her arrest, trial, and acquittal in Newark, in 1993 while investigating the condition of the Newark Public School System for the State of New Jersey’s Department of Education. Her personal life is documented through numerous family photographs, personal correspondence, the writings of her first partner, Joan McEniry, and scrapbooks and photo albums from important life events. Also of high interest are the photograph, letter, and signed certificate from President Nixon after her appointment to the Advisory Council on Spanish Speaking Americans.

The collection consists of papers, clippings, bound volumes, drawings, scrapbooks, photographs, VHS cassettes, memorabilia, and realia. A broad list of subjects present in the collection are the Puerto Rican Diaspora, Latino Advocacy, LGBT advocacy, feminism, social justice, civil rights, the pedagogy in higher education, bilingual education, social movements in Newark, NJ in the second half of the 20th Century, and social work. The materials are arranged chronologically within each series or subseries, unless otherwise indicated. The majority of the collection is in English; but there are speeches, articles, and correspondence in Spanish.


  • circa 1920s - 2010, undated
  • Majority of material found within 1968 - 1999

Language of Materials

English and Spanish

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

Hilda Hidalgo was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico in 1928 to Marcelino Hidalgo and María Flores. A precocious child, Dr. Hidalgo had graduated from high school and completed a year of undergraduate education by age 16. Following a desire to become a saint, Dr. Hidalgo joined a convent and spent the next 11 years as a nun in Philadelphia and in Coamo, Puerto Rico, teaching at the catholic school. Realizing that life in the convent was not for her, Dr. Hidalgo left her order and completed her undergraduate education, receiving her BA from the University of Puerto Rico in 1957. She had accepted a job with the Girl Scouts of America in Santurce, Puerto Rico to pay for her education. The Girl Scouts then offered her a scholarship to a graduate program in educational guidance at Catholic University, Washington D.C. with the understanding that she would continue to work for them for at least two years.

After receiving her first master’s degree, Dr. Hidalgo worked as the District Director of the Girl Scout Council of Greater Essex, New Jersey from 1960 to 1965. During this time, Dr. Hidalgo made it her mission to offer scouting opportunities to girls in urban areas from minority communities. This was when Dr. Hidalgo experienced discrimination because of her ethnicity, gender, and race for the first time. It was also during this period of her life that she met Joan McEniry, a fellow employee of the Girl Scouts, and fell in love; they remained in a committed partnership until Joan’s death in 1995. In 1964, Dr. Hidalgo left the Girl Scouts.

Dr. Hidalgo received her Master of Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work in 1968, while working in Newark at the Child Service Association as the Director of Group Services. As a member of the Newark community, Dr. Hidalgo also spent much of the 1960s becoming politically and socially active, participating in the civil right movement as well as co-founding ASPIRA, Inc. of New Jersey, La Casa de Don Pedro, the Puerto Rican Congress of New Jersey, the United Community Corp., and the Newark Urban League. Dr. Hidalgo attended the 1968 Democratic National Convention as a delegate for Senator Eugene McCarthy. She also served as the Chair of the first Puerto Rican Convention of New Jersey and the Secretary of the first Black and Puerto Rican Convention in Newark, New Jersey. It was that coalition that led to the Community’s Choice Convention in Newark, New Jersey in 1970, which resulted in the election of Newark’s first black mayor, Kenneth Gibson. She also served as a mediator between the National Guard and the residents of the Central Ward during the 1967 riots and between Rutgers-Newark Administration and the students who had occupied Conklin Hall in 1969.

In 1969, Dr. Hidalgo joined the faculty of Rutgers, in the Department of Urban Planning and Community Development at Livingston College. Dr. Hidalgo, in a unique move, convinced Rutgers to hire her at the lowest faculty rank, assistant professor, at a lesser salary than initially offered to counteract any implications of tokenism. She also negotiated for the ability to attend a doctorate program at the Union Graduate School, Antioch College to obtain her PhD. In 1971, Dr Hidalgo successfully defended and received her PhD; she was also appointed Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Community Development. Her renown was such that in 1971 President Nixon appointed her to the President’s Cabinet Committee for the Spanish Speaking; she was the only woman and Puerto Rican to serve on this committee. The following year, she once again attended the Democratic National Convention as a delegate for the State of New Jersey.

It was during the 1970s that Dr. Hidalgo came out as a lesbian both to her family and friends. Emboldened by the positive response she received, and by the internal feelings of freedom this caused, Dr. Hidalgo became active in the struggle for LGBT rights, both personally and professionally. She worked tirelessly to combat the perception of homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder and eventually was the lead editor and co-author of Lesbian and gay issues: A resource manual for social workers (1985). She was an active member of the women’s movement and an outspoken feminist. In both instances, she had the added interest of exploring how these social justice movements served Latinos and people of color in addition to Caucasians.

After working at Livingston College for 8 years, Dr. Hidalgo asked for a transfer to Rutgers-Newark. It was at Rutgers-Newark that Dr. Hidalgo co-created two Masters Programs to train Hispanic professionals: the first was the Experimental MSW for Bilingual/Bicultural Hispanics; the second was the MPA Program for Hispanic Administrators. Dr. Hidalgo helped shape the curriculum for both these programs and was instrumental in securing their funding, since they depended exclusively on external funds. As a direct result of Dr. Hidalgo’s efforts, with the help of like minded Rutgers faculty and her partner Ms. McEniry, roughly one hundred bilingual Latinos entered into the professional sphere in New Jersey, creating greater ease of access to a number of services, both public and private, for the Latino community. Near the end of her tenure at Rutgers-Newark, Dr. Hidalgo was named to the “Complete Count Committee” for the 1990 Census by Sharpe James, Mayor of Newark. She served as the chair of this committee, whose purpose was to increase the response from Latinos as well as from other historically underserved communities, like the homeless, the undocumented, and the poor.

In 1992, Dr. Hidalgo retired from Rutgers then accepted a position as the Assistant Commissioner of Education for the State of New Jersey. Acting in this capacity, Dr. Hidalgo inspected Newark Public Schools to determine their status in preparation for a state takeover. While inspecting Morton Street School with members of the press, Dr. Hidalgo was arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest by the Newark Police; her wrist was broken by the police. She was eventually acquitted of all charges in 1995.

Joan McEniry passed away in 1995 from cancer and Dr. Hidalgo moved to Florida; she did so, as she said in her oral history, to be near her sister and to die. But even with that goal, Dr. Hidalgo still found the time and energy to continue fighting for social justice, joining the LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida Council. She also met Dr. Cheryl LaMay through her sister; sparks flew and they started dating in 1997. In 2004, they got married in Massachusetts on Cape Cod. Dr. Hidalgo remained active in her community in Florida until she was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. She passed away in 2009. Her life and career were celebrated by her friends, colleagues, and family at a celebration of life service at the Newark Public Library in March 2010.

(All information in the above biographical note is taken from the collection and the Hilda Hidalgo Oral History)


23 Cubic Feet (23 Boxes, Flat Files; 14 document boxes, 9 oversize boxes, other oversize materials also found in PRCA flat files)


Community activist, LGBT advocate, educator, social worker, and Rutgers professor. Cofounder of both the Experimental Master of Social Work for Bilingual/Bicultural Hispanics and of the Master in Public Administration for Hispanic Administrators at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. The bulk of the collection is comprised of academic writings, including numerous articles for publication, monograph manuscripts, a doctoral dissertation, speeches, keynote addresses and case studies. Also comprising a significant portion of the collection are the planning documents, program proposals and complimentary materials, such as funding requests and accreditation evaluations, for the two Masters programs. Additional resources on community activism, Latino and LGBT advocacy, and Newark politics may be found in this collection. Also of high interest are the photograph, letter, and signed certificate from President Nixon regarding an appointment to the Advisory Council on Spanish Speaking Americans.


The collection is divided into the following series/ subseries:

I. Writings
  • A. Speeches, Addresses, and Conference Proceedings
  • B. Manuscripts, Proposals and Articles
  • C. Correspondence
  • D. Writings by Others
II. Biographical and Personal Information
  • A. Scrapbooks and Photograph Albums
  • B. Degrees, Awards and Honors
  • C. State of New Jersey v. Hilda Hidalgo
  • D. A Celebration of Life: Hilda A. Hidalgo, PhD
III. Subject Files
IV. Academic Programs
  • A. Experimental MSW Program for Bilingual/Bicultural Hispanics
  • B. MPA Program for Hispanic Administrators
V. Media
VI. Memorabilia
  • A. Button Collection

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Papers are in generally good condition, but onion skin papers containing social work case notes are delicate. Drawings made in crayon from social work case studies are interleaved with acid-free buffer paper. Preservation photocopies have been made of brittle materials such as newspaper clippings; the originals were discarded. Photographs from albums with adhesive backing were removed and housed in mylar sleeves as were loose photographs; original order was preserved where apparent. The scrapbook was kept intact, but metal fasteners were removed and each page is interleaved with acid-free buffered papers to protect contents; special handling is required. The content of the VHS tapes has not been re-formatted and can only be viewed with a VCR and television. The memorabilia has been specially housed in protective acid-free batting. Digital photographs have been taken of the pin-back buttons and memorabilia for researcher use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Hilda A. Hildago, PhD, 2009.


Materials regarding the planning and hosting of the Celebration of Life service held at the Newark Public Library was added to the collection.

Related Materials

Marcos Leiderman, PhD and María Canino, EdD – Papers:
Contains Experimental MSW Program planning materials and curricula; MPA for Hispanic Administrators Program planning materials and curricula; and a letter announcing Dr. Hidalgo’s resignation from President Nixon’s Council on Hispanic Affairs, which is not found in the Hidalgo Papers.

Adela Coca – Papers:
Contains a letter regarding the MPA program between A. Coca and H. Hidalgo, J. McEniry, and M. Canino.

Amilkar Vélez-López – Papers:
Judge Vélez-López sat on H. Hidalgo’s dissertation review committee; his papers include H. Hidalgo’s PhD dissertation writings; also included is the published article, “The Puerto Rican Lesbian and the Puerto Rican Community” (1976), co-authored with her sister Elia Hidalgo Christensen; this article is not found in the Hidalgo Papers.

Olga Jiménez Wagenheim, PhD – Papers:
Contains Experimental MSW Program records; articles; and the published version of Nicolasa Mohr’s story about Hilda Hidalgo’s first experience with discrimination (“An Awakening… Summer 1956”).

Latino Oral History Collection:
Hilda Hidalgo Oral History; Olga J. Wagenheim Oral History.

ASPIRA, Inc. of New Jersey - Records:
H. Hidalgo was a co-founder of the New Jersey chapter.

Maxine Lisboa – Papers:
Contains founding documents of ASPIRA, Inc. of NJ.

María Vizcarrondo-Soto – Papers:
Contains records of ASPIRA, Inc. of NJ.

Guide to the Hilda A. Hidalgo, PhD - Papers
Processing Archivist: Elizabeth Parker with the assistance of Juber Ayala and interns, Tiana High and Yasmine Miller. Project Archivist: Yesenia López
August 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Processed with a grant from the Friends of the HRIC, two General Operating Support Grants from the New Jersey Historical Commission, and interns from the Newark College Institute Program

Repository Details

Part of the Puerto Rican Community Archives, New Jersey Hispanic Research & Information Center, Newark Public Library Repository

5 Washington Street
P.O. Box 630
Newark New Jersey 07101-0630
(973) 733-4791