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Emma Tenayuca on the steps of City Hall, 1938 remained angry and disturbed by that family’s story for as long as she lived. It fueled her passion for justice. Emma graduated from Brackenridge High School in 1934, where she excelled in debate. “She pinned my ears back when we debated,” former Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez \(a contempoSan Antonio ExpressNews after her death. She helped start a student newspaper that kept her involved in the political issues of the day. At fifteen, she read Karl Marx and Leo Tolstoy. She began to understand, as she told Texas Observer editor Geoffrey Rips in 1983, “some aspects of the free enterprise system which were highly vulnerable.” As a child, her father explained to her that a small group of powerful Anglo men in San Antonio the bosses handed out political jobs to Mexican Americans. Her father regarded this particular form of oligarchy with disdain and outrage. Emma’s objection to bossism seemed more personal. She had a finely tuned sense of betrayal. I remember her saying that what she really despised was people and systems that used other people in an abstract, inhumane San Antonio Light/Institute for Texan Cultures way for their own profit. In the summer of 1933, she got her first experience challenging such a system. In August of that year, 400 women workers walked off their jobs at the Finck Cigar Company in San Antonio, citing wages as low as $2 a week, inadequate sanitary facilities, and lack of payment for cigars that foremen said were improperly rolled. Emma read about the strike in the local newspaper, and it was the sight of a photograph of Bexar County Sheriff Albert West wearing a new shiny pair of boots that propelled her to action. In the story, West was quoted as saying that he was going out on the picket line to kick the women strikers with his boots until they got back to work. As an act of solidarity, Emma, then a junior in high school, went directly to join the cigar workers on the picket line. As she told Rips in 1983: “I went to observe; I landed in jail and learned how difficult it would be to make this a union town. For a while, I think, I probably was very much of an anarchist. I had their ideas.” As Emma saw it, the Finck Cigar strike was broken by police. 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER AUGUST 20, 1999