Alberta Gonzalez (1914-1996)
Jersey gem: Worked in Mullica Hill
In the summer of 1954, Alberta Gonzalez became the first Puerto Rican woman crew leader to supervise a labor camp for migrant farm workers in New Jersey. Four years earlier, Gonzalez had migrated to Mullica Hill from Puerto Rico. She was hired by farmer Jim Lernner to supervise 50 migrant workers who traveled half the year from Puerto Rico, Florida and Philadelphia in order to work on his farm. As overseer, Gonzalez asked Lernner for better water facilities, kitchen utensils, and a working stove and heater for workers. The farmer agreed to Gonzalez’ request under the condition that she and her husband provide him with camp supervision and guarantee that 50 men work for him each summer.
In addition to her advocacy for improved working and living conditions at the camp, Gonzalez worked for 34 years as a cook to migrant workers. She also cared for the sick, provided shelter and refuge for illegal Mexican farm workers and wrote letters for the illiterate men on the farm. Another one of her contributions was the formation of the first informal savings bank for migrant workers which helped them save enough money for their return to Puerto Rico.