Gruber’s study, originally published in 1972, appeared in a paperback version without the photographs in 1975. Educational documents recognize the importance of the mayor of San Juan: Felisa Rincón de Gautier is one of five women portrayed in “A Multi-Cultural Women’s History Elementary Curriculum Unit” by Barbara Tomin and Carol Burgoa.
Although Gruber acknowledges the charges of opponents that the world has passed Doña Felisa by, her book documents the lonely, brave first steps of popular democracy in Puerto Rico for young readers. Because of her sophistication and steadfastness, qualities that led her critics to call her a blend of Marie Antoinette and Tammany Hall, Rincón de Gautier succeeded. She wisely chose a political course for Puerto Rico between total independence (too expensive) and statehood (loss of Spanish culture), opting for commonwealth status. By supporting Operation Bootstrap, she helped to lead the citizens of her beloved island out of poverty and into a fuller economic life. Her confrontation with Catholic bishops over birth control is briefly mentioned. As Puerto Rico became a model for emerging peoples, Doña Felisa became a model for empowered womanhood. Gruber’s book makes an important contribution to the history of the Americas.