Celebrating our Local Women's History
Stories from Women Living in the Southeast Valley as told by CGCC Students in partnership with Gilbert Historical Museum
Oral History of Sally Madril

Oral history of Sally Madril
Written by: Claudia Cordova

Sally Madril Interviewed by Claudia Cordova On February 23, 2008

Sally Madril embodies many traits, including hardwork, bravery, and dedication. She emphasizes to her students the importance of history in order to cherish what has been granted to them today. Her history in Gilbert tells a story of touching details and the formation of a town before it became the developed city it is today.

Sally's family tree starts with her maternal grandparents who were Maria Luisa Durazo and Manuel Vega and her paternal grandparents Miguel Madril and Ramona Uraya. Both sides of the family are from Mexico: one from Sonora and the other from Altar. Her father Miguel Madril was born in Arivaca, Tucson, Pinal County, and her mother Maria Luisa aka "Alice" Vega was born in Maurde, Santra Cruz a "little county near Tucson."  Mrs. Madril's parents met in Tucson and got married on August 1929, and moved to Gilbert during the 1930's when their first son out of 12 children was born.

Sally was born in Gilbert, AZ on May 11, 1946. She had three brothers and eight sisters, but three sisters died in their toddler years due to "some disease."  Sally lived in "a small town in the outskirts of Gilbert." The "old spacey ranch style home" with big rooms was located on Cooper and Elliot Roads surrounded by mostly agriculture and fields. There was little development at that time. Sally explained, "It was very easy living, a comfortable town to live in." The neighbors knew each other due to the small population, and people were able to have "freedom to do lots of things." Gilbert had only a few stores, railroad tracks, a train depot, schools and one Diary Queen. To purchase groceries Sally's family came into town. There were only two markets: Liberty Market and Samlee's Market.

Sally's mother and father were hard workers who helped each other. Before arriving in Gilbert to work on laying the railroad track, Sally's father worked in the mines in Tucson along with other Mexican men. Sally's father got involved in agriculture, worked long hours, nights and weekends in the fields to provide a shelter for his family. Sally's mother was a house-keeper for some of the local families. Her mother used to do a lot of out-door cooking and made sure her family had their daily three meals. Sally remembers her mother making tortillas outside in "this huge comal" with her siblings. "We would help her eat them but not make them, " she explained. When strangers would see Sally's mother making tortillas or tamales, they would stop and purchase some.

Sally portrays her parents as "energetic" and with "high work ethics." Sally's parents made sure their children completed what they had intended to do. They made a great team "working together to provide for such a large family." Sally said, "They kept the large family going and influenced me a lot." Sally's parents taught her to work hard for what she wanted and not only work hard but to do a job well; "if we didn't do something well, we had to do it over again… not close to perfection but done well." The children were pushed to not settle for mediocrity and to have faith in "our beliefs." Sally was taught to not get influenced by what other people thought. For example, during the 60's there were the "Hippy stuff, but I wasn't influenced by those things because we lived in such a small town," Sally explained. Overall the family was very supportive of each other; "if one of us felt that couldn't do something, we said 'Why can't you … you can do it if you believe you can do it.'" For Sally, if someone told her she couldn't do something that gave her more motivation to prove somebody wrong.

Sally grew up mostly around her sisters, because her brothers attended high school but soon left town to join the Navy. "They didn't get to finish high school," she explained. Sally would see them when they were on leave. Meanwhile, the sisters grouped together and "just did crazy things" like playing out-doors and "developing our own creative ways of building toys." They made things in order to have fun, like walking on homemade pogo sticks, climbing trees and acting like Tarzan, playing house, and making mud pies. "My father was a farm worker" and so sometimes when the irrigation came in they would go in the water and "mess everything up for him." She also remembers working in the summer to bring in extra income. "The girls would help out in the summer, hoeing cotton, weeding cotton, and picking cotton."

When Sally started school, it was the end of the segregated school system in Gilbert. Sally explained: "When my sisters went to school, they were segregated!" Schools didn't allow students to speak Spanish. "I didn't know the consequence because I was not aware of speaking Spanish." Sally's grade school was Gilbert Elementary. She recalls being close to her sisters and wanting to be with them. "If I was in the classroom and saw them pass by... I would cry for them." During her high school years, she was aware of girls who became pregnant and were sent home because they were not allowed to attend school under those conditions. She also remembers developing a good relationship with classmates kindergarten through high school, mostly because she attended school with children from the same families that lived "close by home." After graduating from Gilbert High School, she attended two years at MCC which was on Extension. A lot has changed since then, and now that building is a restaurant. Originally, Sally wanted to be a clerical worker and work in an office, but later she changed her mind to pursue a degree in education. "I figured I wanted to work with children and come in contact with more people, instead of being in an office situation." Sally went on to attend Arizona State University where she earned a BA and MA in education.

Sally saw few roles for women growing up. Some young women got married early and started their families, while others got an education. She saw some mothers who had to work hard to bring in income while taking care of their homes. Sally didn't want to settle for a small job or to be a stay-at-home mother. She wanted a career! Sally became a teacher and taught for many years. Sally worked in a Head Start program before finishing her degree. Her first teaching job was at St. Mary's school in Chandler, then she taught in the Phoenix Union District for the remainder of her career.

Sally didn't get married or have children, "just a lot of nephews and nieces" she said laughing. "Every woman wants to get married," she explained, "but my relationships just didn't turn out as expected." Sally states that she wouldn't change anything in her past because, "you live life as it happens and learn from those experiences," but she would have liked to have children.

As a teacher, Sally stresses the importance of history to her students, helping them to realize how women in the past opened many doors for women today. Sally recognizes the strength of women in her mother's generation. Mothers were often the disciplinarians in the family more than the men. This strength came from women's experiences during the Depression when they had to be resilient, and they taught their children to be compassionate and sensitive of others. Most importantly, Sally inspires her students to "get an education and find something they enjoy!"

Photos courtesy of the family.

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Sally Madril 1957-1958

Sally Madril