Villegas de Magnon, Leonor (1876–1955)

By: Nancy Baker Jones

Type: Biography

Published: August 1, 1995

Updated: January 15, 2017

Leonor Villegas de Magnon, founder of La Cruz Blanca, was born in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, in 1876, the daughter of Joaquín and Helosia Villegas. She was educated in the United States and married an American citizen, Adolpho Magnon, in 1901. The couple had three children. Her father moved to the United States to escape the difficulties of the Mexican Revolution, and when Leonor and her children attended his funeral in Laredo in 1910, warfare prevented their return to Mexico. She remained in the city and opened a kindergarten in her home. Sympathetic to the revolutionary cause and nicknamed La Rebelde, Leonor Villegas de Magnon, with her friend Jovita Idar, wrote for La Crónica, a Laredo newspaper published by Nicasio Idar. When Nuevo Laredo was attacked in March 1913 the two friends and other Laredo women crossed the Rio Grande to nurse the wounded. To assure more organized assistance and to secure medical supplies, Leonor formed and financed La Cruz Blanca, the White Cross. After Nuevo Laredo was attacked again on January 1, 1914, she transformed her Laredo home, garage, and school into hospitals for wounded soldiers who crossed the river. More than 100 of Venustiano Carranza's men were treated in her wards during that January. When American army officials attempted to arrest and inter the Mexican soldier-patients, she refused to release them and organized the escape of several patients by having visitors secretly bring them clean street clothes. After nearly forty men were taken into custody at Fort McIntosh, she hired an attorney to seek their release. Their attempts to convince Governor Oscar B. Colquitt to intervene in the soldiers' behalf were unsuccessful, but eventually Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan ordered the men freed. Later in 1914 Leonor Villegas de Magnon and twenty-five other nurses joined Carranza's army at Ciudad Juárez and traveled with them to Mexico City. The Mexican government awarded her five medals for her work during the revolution. She died in Mexico City on April 17, 1955. She wrote an account of her experiences that was published in Spanish in the Laredo Times in 1961.

Visit the Texas Women Project's standalone website

The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.

Visit Website

Laredo Times, April 18, 1955, March 19, 1961. Mary Beth Rogers et al., We Can Fly: Stories of Katherine Stinson and Other Gutsy Texas Women (Austin: Texas Foundation for Women's Resources, 1983). J. B. Wilkinson, Laredo and the Rio Grande Frontier (Austin: Jenkins, 1975).

  • Health and Medicine
  • Nurses and Nurse Administrators
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Women
  • Revolutionaries

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Nancy Baker Jones, “Villegas de Magnon, Leonor,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

August 1, 1995
January 15, 2017

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: