Alice Cardona, Latina Rights Advocate, Dies at 81


Alice Cardona (81) passed away on November 1st. This is a small tribute to her advocacy and life work.



Alice Cardona, who advocated for women’s rights and bilingual education, died Nov. 1 at age 81. She was of Puerto Rican descent and raised and educated in Spanish Harlem in New York. Her parents immigrated to New York from Puerto Rico in 1923.

After graduating high school in 1950, Cardona volunteered at the Legion de Maria, where she gave psychological support to black and Hispanic people in need.

During this time she learned about the oppressive social, economic and educational obstacles that these groups faced.

In 1961, Cardona joined the Sisters of St. John, a religious order based in Taylor, Texas, but later returned to New York to work for a financial institution as a program coordinator for United Bronx Parents (UBP).

Her career prospered between 1970 and 1978, during which time she worked at ASPIRA as a counselor for youth and later as a director of counseling for parents and students.

Working at ASPIRA encouraged her to return to complete her degree, which she did in 1973 through an independent study program at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt. She also was an active member of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women (NACOPRW). In 1975, Cardona became a member on the national board of NACOPRW.

During this time she founded HACER/Hispanic Women’s Center, which aimed to help Latinas to achieve their professional goals through education.

Between 1983 and 1995, under the administration of New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, Cardona was the assistant director of the N.Y. State Division for Women, where she directed the office’s day-to-day operations.

In this position she further advocated for bilingual education and women, including those in prison. She also worked to combat AIDS/HIV, breast cancer and domestic violence.

Upon retiring in 1995, Cardona remained active with various organizations. She was the director of the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs (PRACA); the co-director of the Atrevete, a group dedicated to voter registration and political participation; and a member of the boards of National Women’s Political Caucus, National Association for Bilingual Education, and Puerto Rican Educatiors Association, among others.

In 1997, Cardona was one of 70 U.S. women invited to “Vital Voices of Women in Democracy” in Beijing. She also is the author of a book, “Puerto Rican Women Achievers in New York City,” and she was the first Hispanic woman to receive the Susan B. Anthony prize from the National Organization for Women (NOW).

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