UT Austin professor among USA Today’s prestigious ‘Women of the Year’ honorees

AUSTIN, Texas – USA Today has announced its annual “Women of the Year” honorees, and one of them is an award-winning historian and associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin.

Monica Munoz Martinez grew up in Uvalde, Texas and has worked to bring attention to inhumane immigration policies while also highlighting communities impacted by gun violence. She is part of an esteemed group of trailblazers who exemplify courage and resilience.

Former first lady Michelle Obama, former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and NASA Space X Crew - 5 mission commander Nicole Mann join Martinez this year in a list of 12 honorees.

“On the usatoday.com website, my picture is between an astronaut and a former first lady, so maybe girls will want to grow up to be historians,” Martinez said.


Raised in Uvalde, Martinez went on to attend Brown University as an undergrad, and then earned two master’s degrees and a PhD from Yale. She says her drive to succeed was inspired by her hard-working family: a mix of social workers and educators who taught her the importance of standing up for what’s right.

“I learned so much from my parents and my grandparents, who taught me from a young age, that it’s important to care about your community and it’s important to care about fighting against injustice in all of its forms,” she explained.

Martinez has devoted herself to making the history of anti-Mexican violence at the border publicly accessible, earning her a prestigious The MacArthur Fellows Program “Genius Grant” in 2021.

She also helped start the nonprofit “Refusing to Forget,” and created the digital research project “Mapping the Violence,” which tells the history of racial violence in Texas in the early 1900s.

“For over 15 years, I’ve researched the history of racist violence in Texas- lynchings, massacres - studied the long-term impact, how it shapes families and communities and I also have written about people who have fought against injustice and called for social change. I wish my research wasn’t so relevant today,” Martinez said.

The massacre at Robb Elementary School compelled Martinez to draw attention to gun violence, working with experts at UT Austin and drawing on the expertise of social workers, educators, and physical and mental health experts to address the immediate and long-term needs in her hometown.

As humble as she is talented and compassionate, Martinez sees this latest accolade from USA Today as another opportunity to pay it forward.

“It’s important to remember where you come from. What I may have the opportunity to achieve, I have to try and create those opportunities for others,” she said.