Alma Reed Changed the World


By: Lisa Ricottone

Alma Reed (Photo, compliments of La Jornada)

Alma Reed (Photo, compliments of La Jornada)


Women all around the world are inspired by this woman. With no specialized degree or schooling, Alma Reed was a journalist, self-taught in archeology as well as art and was able to change some laws along the way that saved and improved many lives. “I’m inspired by her because of her go-getting attitude. She loved what she did and didn’t let anything stop her from doing it,” Kelly Florez, Suffolk County Community College Woman’s club advisor explains.

Alma Reed was born in the late 1800’s in San Francisco California. The beginning of her journalist career was as a “sob sister” or a money raising journalist for the underprivileged. Reed was given an opportunity to expand her stories so she was sent to interview and note inmates at San Quentin prison. There she met Simon Ruiz 17, a boy serving the death penalty. Reed wrote an article on opposing the death penalty to minors and was granted a new law in the state of California, no one under the age of 18 can receive the death penalty. She reached out to women saying, “This is could be your son.” Notifying them of the importance it has on not just for Simon Ruiz, but all minors.

Reed was then offered to travel to Mexico where she met Edward Thompson. Thompson purchased land with the ruins of Chechen Itza, and smuggled over 2 million dollars worth of artifacts to the Harvard University Museum. Thompson offered to tell Reed, and also signed for proof for an article. It was then published in the New York Times, and artifacts were returned to the ruins, thanks to Reed.

Intrigued by his accomplishments, Reed was given the opportunity to interview the governor of the Yucatan, Filipe Carrillo. In 1923 Carrillo established feminism in Yucatan, Citra, along with woman’s right to vote, and legalized divorce along with birth control. He also redistributed land to the Indians and translated the constitution to Mayan to inform them of their rights.
Alma Reed adored his accomplishments and his beliefs and soon the two were in love. Carrillo had a song composed for Alma Reed called “Peregrina” which is still played today. “The song chokes me up a bit. It reminds me of my mom. She loved that song,” Florez replies.

Unfortunately their romance didn’t last long. Jealous of Carrillo’s power, his three brothers assassinated him in Jan. of 1924. Although his death was very tragic for her, she still had the ambition to move on and be a part of an exciting life. She traveled to Carthage for the New York Times and was hailed as the only archeological reporter in the world. Reed was granted a scholarship to a University in Naples Italy and stayed there for some time.

From 1930 to 1940, Alma Reed sponsored struggling painters and artists for and then moved to Cozumel Mexico where she became a historian and an unofficial publicist taking pictures. Sadly, in 1966 Alma Reed died in Mexico City of a heart arrhythmia. She was buried Oct. 17th of 1967, in a general cemetery, in Merida, Yucatan across from Filipe Carrillo, where her accomplishments were engraved forever on her tombstone.

2 responses

  1. Felipe Carillo was not murdered by his brothers, rather, three of his brothers and 8 of their friends were all assassinated with him – and his assassination was most likely ordered by Mexico’s president at the time.

  2. Lisa, please correct your article or cite your source, he was not murdered by his brothers. He and his brothers were murdered by a military coup.

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