Women's Rights in South America
Women’s rights throughout the last century have achieved huge strides. All over the world, women have fought for the right to vote, to go to school and to express themselves. This timeline of women’s rights in South America explores the most pivotal moments for it during the past 150 years. Before even having the right to vote, women have launched movements, wrote publications and protested governments, all to ensure that others would hear their voices. 

Timeline of Women’s Rights in South America

1883: Elvira García y García pioneered the path for women’s rights in South America before feminism was a word. She created the girls’ school, Liceo Peruano, where she brought education to countless young girls across Peru. Through this, she tore down traditional gender barriers and inspired girls to obtain an education.

1919: Bertha Maria Júlia Lutz and another woman founded the League for the Intellectual Emancipation of Women, which was an organization aimed at addressing the inability for women to vote. This historic organization fought for voting rights and the right for women to work across Brazil without their husband’s authorization. Lutz relentlessly tackled key issues until obtaining the right in 1932. Further, she successfully worked to obtain international women’s rights at the U.N. Charter at San Francisco Conference on International Organizations in 1945.

1938: Julia de Burgos, a Puerto Rican writer, released a controversial collection of poetry on social justice issues. The poems discussed slavery, colonialism and women’s rights in South America; after the first publication, she went on to write about feminist theory. One main topic of her works was the idea that motherhood and womanhood were not synonymous. These works continued to live through the movement and eventually inspired American Latina Feminist creators like Mariposa, Andrea Arroyo, Luzma Umpierre, Rosario Ferré and Yasmin Hernandez.

1945: Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, or Gabriela Mistral, was the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature as a Chilean woman. She was also passionate about education, becoming a school teacher by the young age of 15. One of the primary ways she fought for women’s rights in South America was by ensuring that girls had access to quality education.

1946: Felisa Rincón de Gautier became mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, becoming the first female mayor of a capital city in the Americas. She fought for women’s rights in South America with a strong belief that all women should have the right to vote and have the opportunity to be active in politics. She continued to engage in the movement throughout her life, even at the age of 95.

1969: María Jesús Alvarado Rivera was the first modern champion of women’s rights in the country, as honored by The National Council of Women of Peru. Throughout her life, she fought for women’s rights in South America by educating the public on women’s suffrage. She too worked to ensure education for young girls across the country.

1999: All of these brilliant women’s activities prompted the Venezuelan government to develop a new constitution, aligning with a majority of the republics in the Western Hemisphere. It explicitly stated that all citizens, regardless of gender, have social, political and economic rights. The Assembly of Social Movements also recognized and addressed domestic abuse, sexual harassment and discrimination as issues.

Since the turn of the century, non-government organizations have fought to continue providing opportunities to strengthen women’s rights in South America. Countless women and allies across the continent have made huge commitments to gender equality. More women are involving themselves in these movements and organizations than ever before, which is not only a cause for celebration but also a victory for the women who dedicated a lifetime of activities towards improving women’s rights in South America.

– Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr