Women's suffrage in Mexico

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The struggle for women's right to vote in Mexico dates back to the nineteenth century, with the right being achieved in the mid-twentieth century.

The liberal Mexican Constitution of 1857 did not bar women from voting in Mexico or holding office, but "election laws restricted the suffrage to males, and in practice women did not participate nor demand a part in politics," with framers being indifferent to the issue.[1][2] Years of civil war and the French intervention delayed any consideration of women's role in Mexican political life, but during the Restored Republic and the Porfiriato (1876–1911), women began organizing to expand their civil rights, including suffrage. Socialist publications in Mexico began advocating changes in law and practice as early as 1878. The journal La Internacional articulated a detailed program of reform that aimed at "the emancipation, rehabilitation, and integral education of women."[3] The era of the Porfiriato did not record changes in law regarding the status of women, but women began entering professions requiring higher education: law, medicine, and pharmacy (requiring a university degree), but also teaching.[4] Liberalism placed great importance on secular education, so that the public school system ranks of the teaching profession expanded in the late nineteenth century, which benefited females wishing to teach and education for girls.

The status of women in Mexico became an issue during the Mexican Revolution, with Francisco I. Madero, the challenger to the continued presidency of Porfirio Diaz interested in the rights of Mexican women. Madero was part of a rich estate-owning family in the northern state of Coahuila, who had attended University of California, Berkeley briefly and traveled in Europe, absorbing liberal ideas and practices. Madero's wife as well as his female personal assistant, Soledad González, "unquestionably enhanced his interest in women's rights."[4] González was one of the orphans that the Maderos adopted; she learned typing and stenography, and traveled to Mexico City following Madero's election as president in 1911.[4] Madero's brief presidential term was tumultuous, and with no previous political experience, Madero was unable to forward the cause of women's suffrage.

Following his ouster by military coup led by Victoriano Huerta and Madero's assassination, those taking up Madero's cause and legacy, the Constitutionalists (named after the liberal Constitution of 1857) began to discuss women's rights. Venustiano Carranza, former governor of Coahuila, and following Madero's assassination, the "first chief" of the Constitutionalists. Carranza also had an influential female private secretary, Hermila Galindo, who was a champion of women's rights in Mexico.[4]

In asserting his Carranza promulgated political plan Plan de Guadalupe in 1914, enumerating in standard Mexican fashion, his aims as he sought supporters. In the "Additions" to the Plan de Guadalupe, Carranza made some important statements that affected families and the status of women in regards to marriage. In December 1914, Carranza issued a decree that legalized divorce under certain circumstances.[4] Although the decree did not lead to women's suffrage, it eased somewhat restrictions that still existed in the civil even after the nineteenth-century liberal Reforma established the State's right to regulate marriage as a civil rather than an ecclesiastical matter.

There was increased advocacy for women's rights in the late 1910s, with the founding of a new feminist magazine, Mujer Moderna, which ceased publication in 1919. Mexico saw several international women's rights congresses, the first being held in Mérida, Yucatán, in 1916. The International Congress of Women had some 700 delegates attend, but did not result in lasting changes.[5]

As women's suffrage made progress in Great Britain and the United States, in Mexico there was an echo. Carranza, who was elected president in 1916, called for a convention to draft a new Mexican Constitution that incorporated gains for particular groups, such as the industrial working class and the peasantry seeking land reform. It also incorporated increased restrictions on the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico, an extension of the anticlericalism in the Constitution of 1857. The Constitution of 1917 did not explicitly empower women's access to the ballot.

In the northern Mexican state of Sonora, Mexican women pushed for more rights for women, including the vote. Emélida Carrillo and school teacher María de Jesús Váldez led the effort. Notably, the movement for Mexican women's rights there was linked to the movement to exclude and expel Chinese in Mexico, racial essentialism that was also seen in the suffrage movement in the U.S., but generally not elsewhere in Latin America.[6]

In 1937, Mexican feminists challenged the wording of the Constitution concerning who is eligible for citizenship – the Constitution did not specify "men and women."[7] María del Refugio García ran for election as a Sole Front for Women's Rights candidate for her home district, Uruapan.[7] García won by a huge margin, but was not allowed to take her seat because the government would have to amend the Constitution.[7] In response, García went on a hunger strike outside President Lázaro Cárdenas's residence in Mexico City for 11 days in August 1937.[7] Cárdenas responded by promising to change Article 34 in the Constitution that September.[7] By December, the amendment had been passed by congress, and women were granted full citizenship. However, the vote for women in Mexico was not granted until 1953.[7] The history and meaning of the women's vote in Mexico has been the subject of some recent scholarly research.[8][9]


See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Morton, Ward M. Woman Suffrage in Mexico. Gainesville: University of Florida Press 1962, p. 1.
  2. ^ María Elena Manzanera del Campo, La igualdad de derechos políticos. Mexico DF: 1953, p. 143.
  3. ^ quoted in Morton, Woman Suffrage in Mexico, p. 2.
  4. ^ a b c d e Morton, Woman Suffrage in Mexico, p. 2.
  5. ^ Morton, Woman Suffrage in Mexico, p. 3.
  6. ^ Kif Augustine-Adams, "Women's Suffrage, the Anti-Chinese Campaigns, and Gendered Ideals in Sonora, Mexico 1917–1925." Hispanic American Historical Review 97(2)2017 pp. 226–28.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Rappaport, Helen (2001). Encyclopedia of women social reformers. Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.]: ABC-CLIO. pp. 249–50. ISBN 978-1-57607-101-4.
  8. ^ Sarah A. Buck, "The Meaning of the Women's Vote in Mexico, 1917–1953" in The Women's Revolution in Mexico, 1910–1953, Stephanie Mitchell and Patience A. Schell, eds. New York: Rowman and Littlefield 2007, pp. 73–98.
  9. ^ Morton, Ward M. Woman Suffrage in Mexico. Gainesville: University of Florida Press 1962

Further reading[edit]

  • Augustine-Adams, Kif. "Women's Suffrage, the Anti-Chinese Campaigns, and Gendered Ideals in Sonora, Mexico 1917–1925." Hispanic American Historical Review 97(2)2017
  • Buck, Sarah A. "The Meaning of the Women's Vote in Mexico, 1917–1953" in The Women's Revolution in Mexico, 1910–1953, Stephanie Mitchell and Patience A. Schell, eds. New York: Rowman and Littlefield 2007, pp. 73–98.
  • Morton, Ward M. Woman Suffrage in Mexico. Gainesville: University of Florida Press 1962