Women in the Paraguayan War

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Paraguayan women had a significant role in the Paraguayan War (1864–1870).

The Paraguayan War, also known as the War of the Triple Alliance, was one of the most dreadful in the history of Latin America.

It began in 1864 when the leader of Paraguay, Francisco Solano López, attacked the neighboring countries (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay) because he saw them as an obstacle in his plans to take control of the sea outlet offered by the Rio de la Plata[citation needed]. This war can be observed from many different directions, such as the significantly large amount of time it took Paraguay to recover from its defeat, or the contributions this war had on Brazil's decision to abolish slavery. Though these angles are an important part of the puzzle, history seems to have forgotten one major group of people: women, Paraguayan women, to be more specific.

During the period just before the war began many Paraguayan women were the heads of their households, meaning they did have some power and authority. They received such positions by being widows, having children out of wedlock, or their husbands worked on peons. When the war began women started to venture out of the home becoming nurses, working with government, and stabilizing themselves into the public sphere. When the New York Times reported on the war in 1868 they considered Paraguayan women equal to their male counterparts.[citation needed]

Paraguayan women's support of the war effort can be divided into two stages. The first being from the time the war began in 1864 to the Paraguayan evacuation of Asunción in 1868. During the period of the war, peasant women became the number one producers of agricultural goods. The second stage begins when the war turned to a more guerrilla form. It started when the capital of Paraguay fell and ended with the assassination of Paraguay's president Francisco Solano López. At this stage the number of women becoming victims of war was increasing.

Women helped sustain Paraguayan society during a very unstable period. Though Paraguay did lose the war, the outcome may have been more disastrous without women performing specific tasks. They were farmers, soldiers, nurses, and government officials. They became the symbol for national unification, and at the end of the war, the traditions women maintained is part of what held the nation together.

References[edit]

  • Chasteen, John Charles. (2006). Born In Blood & Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Ganson, Barbara J. (1990, Jan). "Following Their Children into Battle: Women at War in Paraguay, 1864–1870". The Americas, 46, 3. Retrieved April 18, 2007, from JSTOR database.