Alice Cardona’s (1930-2011) advocacy for women’s rights and bilingual education, as well as her efforts as founder of various organizations for Latinas, distinguished her in New York activist communities. She passed away on November 1 of cancer.
Cardona was born on March 17, 1930, the first of nine children. Upon graduating from high school in 1950, Cardona began to work in a store. During this period, she also volunteered at the Legión de Maria, visiting and giving psychological support to black and Latino people in need. This experience helped expand Cardona’s understanding of the oppressive social, economic, and educational obstacles that these groups faced in New York.
In 1961, Cardona decided to join the Sisters of St. John, a religious order based in Taylor, Texas. After a short time in the community, however, she decided that the religious life limited her abilities to affect change so she abandoned the religious vocation.
In 1964, she became involved in the first Head Start program in New York.
Cardona’s career flourished between 1970 and 1978, a period during which she worked at ASPIRA as a counselor for youth and later as director of a counseling program for parents and students. Cardona was also an active member of National Conference of Puerto Rican Women (NACOPRW). She also co-founded HACER/Hispanic Women’s Center, which aimed to help Latinas to achieve their professional goals via education.
During the Cuomo administration, Cardona was the assistant director of the New York State Division for Women. She directed the office’s day-to-day operations. This position allowed her to further advocate for bilingual education and women, including those in prison. She also worked to combat HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and domestic violence.
Since her retirement in 1995, Cardona dedicated herself to participate as a member or founder in a variety of organizations. She was the director of the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs (PRACA) and was co-director of Atrévete — a group dedicated to voter registration and political participation organized by the Migration Division. She was member of the boards of National Women’s Political Caucus, National Association for Bilingual Education, and Puerto Rican Educators Association. She was also a member of various other organizations.
In July 1997, Cardona was one of 70 women from the United States to be invited to attend the “Vital Voices of Women in Democracy” conference in Beijing, China to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Women’s Forum. She also served as the Hispanic liaison of the office of Assemblymember Cathy Nolan and as a trustee of the National Latina Caucus.
Cardona, honored by The Queens Courier as a “Top Woman in Business,” is an author and the first Latina to receive the Susan B. Anthony Prize.
Her sister Diana is following her wishes to be cremated and a service will be held in the near future.