Women in the Americas

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Full-length, front and back portraits of a native woman from Dasamonquepeio of the Americas showing manner of dress and way of carrying a child on her back; view of river and landscape in the background, (1590).

Women in the Americas are women who were born in, who live in, and are from the Americas. By regional division, these women are the women from North America and those that are from South America. Some of these women can also be designated as women in Central America or women in Middle America. Some women of the Americas come from the Caribbean region. Their evolution, culture and history coincide with the history of the American continent itself.

Some North American women come from dependencies and other territories such as those women from Anguilla (United Kingdom), Aruba (Kingdom of the Netherlands), Bermuda (United Kingdom), Bonaire (Kingdom of the Netherlands), the British Virgin Islands (United Kingdom), Cayman Islands (United Kingdom), Curaçao (Kingdom of the Netherlands), Greenland (Kingdom of Denmark), Guadeloupe (France), Martinique (France), Montserrat (United Kingdom), Puerto Rico (United States), Saint Barthélemy (France), Saint Martin (France), Saint Pierre and Miquelon (France), Saba (Kingdom of the Netherlands), Sint Eustatius (Kingdom of the Netherlands), Sint Maarten (Kingdom of the Netherlands), Turks and Caicos Islands (United Kingdom), and the United States Virgin Islands (United States).

Some South American women come from dependencies and other territories like those that are from Aruba (Kingdom of the Netherlands), Bonaire (Kingdom of the Netherlands), Curaçao (Kingdom of the Netherlands), the Falkland Islands (United Kingdom), French Guiana (France), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (United Kingdom).

North America[edit]


Main article: Women in Canada

The history of Canadian women covers half the population, but until recent years only comprised a tiny fraction of the historiography.[1]

In the 1660s the French government sent about 850 young women (single or widowed) called King's Daughters ("filles du roi"). They quickly found husbands among the predominantly male settlers, as well as a new life for themselves. They came mostly from poor families in the Paris area, Normandy and the central-western regions of France. A handful were ex-prostitutes, but only one is known to have practiced that trade in Canada.[2] As farm wives with very good nutrition and high birth rates they played a major role in establishing family life and enabling rapid demographic growth. They had about 30% more children than comparable women who remained in France. Landry says, "Canadians had an exceptional diet for their time. This was due to the natural abundance of meat, fish, and pure water; the good food conservation conditions during the winter; and an adequate wheat supply in most years."[3][4] The American politician Hillary Clinton is a descendant of one of them.[citation needed]

Besides household duties, some women participated in the fur trade, the major source of cash in New France. They worked at home alongside their husbands or fathers as merchants, clerks and provisioners. Some were widowed, and took over their husbands' roles. A handful were active entrepreneurs in their own right.[5]

In the early 19th century down to the 1950s upper-class Anglos dominated high society in Montreal, and their women constructed and managed their identity and social position through central events in the social life, such as the coming out of debutantes. The elite young women were trained in intelligent philanthropy and civic responsibility, especially through the Junior Leagues. They seldom connected with the reform impulses of the middle class women, and for and were paternalistic in their views of the needs of working-class women.[6]


Main article: Women in Mexico

Women in Mexico are North American women or, at times may also be categorized as Central American women, who live in or come from Mexico. Julia Tuñón Pablos book Women in Mexico: A Past Unveiled (translated by Alan Hynds from the Spanish-language original Mujeres en México: Una historia olvidada) traced and examined the history of Mexican women and their role from the pre-Cortés era to the 1980s. According to Tuñón Pablos, the women of Mexico had been "exalted in myth" but had remained "subordinated in their (...) role" in Mexican society throughout Mexico's history.[7]

United States[edit]

Women in the United States include the history of women in the United States since 1776, and the history of the Thirteen Colonies before that. The reliable sources on the topic were thin before the 1960s. Since then the study of Women's history has been a major scholarly and popular field, with many scholarly books and articles, museum exhibits, and courses in schools and universities.



Main article: Women in Cuba

Cuban women have equal constitutional rights as men in the economic, political, cultural and social fields, as well as in the family. According to article 44 of the Cuban Constitution, the state guarantees women the same opportunities and possibilities as men, in order to achieve woman’s full participation in the development of the country. Women hold 48.9% of the parliamentary seats in the Cuban National Assembly ranking sixth of 162 countries on issues of female participation in political life. [8] There has been only one candidate per seat and the National Candidacy Commission decides the persons.[9][10][11][12]

Dominican Republic[edit]

Women in the Dominican Republic are women who live in or are from the Dominican Republic. Their character has been defined by their history, culture, tradition and experience. Constitutionally, the modern-day women of the Dominican Republic are equal to men in terms of rights and property ownership.[13] Culturally, the women of the Dominican Republic have an attitude that is known as machista behavior, where women understood and to a certain degree accepted the machismo nature of Dominican Republic men. By tradition, Dominican Republic women are expected to be submissive housewives.[14]


Main article: Women in Haiti

Women in Haiti have equal constitutional[15] rights as men in the economic, political, cultural and social fields, as well as in the family.

However, the reality in Haiti is quite far from the law: "political, economic and social features of Haiti negatively affect most Haitians, but Haitian women experience additional barriers to the full enjoyment of their basic rights due to predominant social beliefs that they are inferior to men and a historical pattern of discrimination and violence against them based on their sex. Discrimination against women is a structural feature in Haitian society and culture that has subsisted throughout its history, both in times of peace and unrest."[16]

Puerto Rico[edit]

Main article: Women in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican women are women who live in and are from Puerto Rico, an island territory of the United States. They became citizens of the U.S.A. in 1917. Before that year - in 1898 - women form Puerto Rico were already active participants in the labor movement and agricultural economy in the island.[17] During the period of industrialization, Puerto Rican women took jobs in the so-called "needle industry", working as seamstresses in garment factories.[17]

Trindad and Tobago[edit]

Women in Trinidad and Tobago are women who were born in, who live in, or are from Trinidad and Tobago. Depending from which island the women came from, the women of Trinidad and Tobago may also be called Trinidadian women or Tobagonian women respectively.[18] Some women in Trinidad and Tobago now excel in occupations such as being microenterprise owners, "lawyers, judges, politicians, civil servants, journalists, and calypsonians". Other women dominate in the fields of "domestic service, sales, and some light manufacturing".[18]

Women of Afro-Trinidadian mix commonly become "heads of households", thus with acquired "autonomy and power". By participating in Trinidad and Tobago's version of the Carnival, Trinidadian and Tobagonian women demonstrate their "assertive sexuality". Some of them have also been active in so-called Afro-Christian sects and in running the "sou-sou informal rotating credit associations".[18]

U.S. Virgin Islands[edit]

Women in the United States Virgin Islands are women who were born in, who live in, and are from the Virgin Islands of the United States, a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States, and is composed of the islands of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas. According to Countries and Their Culture, the women of the U.S. Virgin Islands are participating increasingly in the fields of economics, business, and politics.[19]

Central America[edit]

Women living in Central America (or Middle America; see also Mesoamerica) may include those that are from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. If the term "women in Middle America", this regional grouping may include women from Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. If the term "women in Mesoamerica" is used, the women may come approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica.


Main article: Women in Belize

Costa Rica[edit]

Main article: Women in Costa Rica

El Salvador[edit]

Main article: Women in El Salvador

Gender inequality can be found in various areas of Salvadoran life such as employment, health, education, political participation, and family life. Although women in El Salvador enjoy equal protection under the law, they are often at a disadvantage relative to their male counterparts.[20] In 2009, the female labor force participation rate in El Salvador was 45.9 percent, compared to the male rate of 76.7 percent.[21] In the area of politics, women have the same rights as men, but the percentage of women in office compared to men is dismal. In addition, the percentage of males in El Salvador with at least a secondary education in 2010 was 47.5, compared to females at 40.5 percent.[22] Though much progress has been made since the Salvadoran Civil War ended in 1992, there is still more room for improving women’s equality in El Salvador.


Main article: Women in Guatemala

Violence against women in Guatemala reached severe levels during the long-running Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996), and the continuing impact of that conflict has contributed to the present high levels of violence against women in that nation.[23] The total occurrences of femicide in Guatemala by the end of November 2011 were around 650 women killed; in 2010 the murder rate was 9 per 100,000 women, vice 41 per 100,000 for males.[24]


Main article: Women in Honduras

Honduras has experienced economic and social developments since the 1980s. These changes have been positive overall, bringing more gender equality and much higher quality of life for everyone, especially for the women of Honduras. Even with the improvements, there is still a long way to go in climbing the ladder and shrinking the gender gap that by the world's standards is gaping. In the 2011 Human Development Report, Honduras placed 121st out of 187 countries.[25] The country's ranking specific to gender inequality is 105th out of 146 countries, with an overall value of 0.511 out of 1 in terms of HDI (with 1 representing perfect inequality).[25] Many of the inequalities stem from longstanding cultural norms and traditions that have been in place for hundreds of years revolving around the tasks and roles played in the agricultural society of old gender roles in Mesoamerica. Many countries are held back by the traditions of their ancestors.


Main article: Women in Nicaragua

After the 1979 Nicaraguan Revolution in which the Sandinistas led by Daniel Ortega deposed the dictatorial president Anastasio Somoza Debayle, they implemented a number of social reforms, including trying to eliminate gender inequality and improve female literacy rates. They also encouraged women to participate in the fight for social justice and equality[26] (Source: BBC: In Pictures: Sandinista Revolution remembered: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10689502).


Main article: Women in Panama

Women in Panama are the women who live in or are from Panama. Panamanian women, by tradition, are Hispanic and they are treated as equal to men, accorded with "deference and respect". Young women in Panama, particularly those who are single, are regarded as persons with "very high symbolic status", including giving them roles as "Carnaval Queens". One particular example of this type of reverence of female adolescents is the celebration of the inna suid by the Kuna Indians, which is a three-day celebration of the adolescent girls' "coming of age". Some Panamanian women occupy high positions in the field of the professions, education, and government service. Panama had a female president as their national leader, in the person of Mireya Moscoso, who was Panama's first female president, serving from 1999 to 2004.[27]

South America[edit]

Women from South America include women who reside in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela.


Main article: Women in Argentina

Women in Argentina have attained a relatively high level of equality by Latin American standards, and in the Global Gender Gap Report prepared by the World Economic Forum in 2009, Argentine women ranked 24th among 134 countries studied in terms of their access to resources and opportunities relative to men.[28] They enjoy comparable levels of education, and somewhat higher school enrollment ratios than their male counterparts. They are well integrated in the nation's cultural and intellectual life,[29] though less so in the nation's economy. Their economic clout in relation to men is higher than in most Latin American countries, however,[30] and numerous Argentine women hold top posts in the Argentine corporate world;[31] among the best known are Cris Morena, owner of the television production company by the same name, María Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, former CEO and majority stakeholder of Loma Negra, the nation's largest cement manufacturer, and Ernestina Herrera de Noble, director of Grupo Clarín, the premier media group in Argentina.


Main article: Women in Bolivia

Women in Bolivia face struggles in healthcare and cultural change, living in a country that is traditionally misogynist, although the constitution guarantees equal rights for women and men. Economically and politically, women have recently garnered more influence in decision making. According to the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme, in Bolivia "men receive more and better education than women, receive increased and better health assistance than women, and have the possibility to generate greater income while working less...if we consider that women, as opposed to men, also have...the almost exclusive responsibility for domestic work".[32] Maternal mortality and illiteracy among women rate as some of the highest in the world.[32][33] Bolivian women are also exposed to excessive machismo, being utilized as promotional tools in popular advertising which solidifies stereotypes and assumptions about women.[34]


Main article: Women in Brazil

Women in Brazil enjoy the same legal rights and duties as men, what is clearly expressed in the 5th article of Brazil's 1988 Constitution.[35] A cabinet-level office, the Secretariat for Women's Affairs, oversees a special secretariat that has responsibility to ensure the legal rights of women. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on gender in employment and wages, there were significant wage disparities between men and women. However, many women have been elected mayors and many women have been federal judges. The first female assumed office in the Senate in 1979. Women became candidates for vice president for the first time in 1994. As of 2009, only 9% of the seats in the national parliament were held by women.[36]


Main article: Women in Chile

The lives, roles, and rights of women in Chile have gone through many changes over time. Chilean women's societal roles have historically been impacted by traditional gender roles and a patriarchal culture, but throughout the twentieth century, women increasingly involved themselves in politics and protest, resulting in provisions to the constitution to uphold equality between men and women and prohibit sex discrimination.

Women's educational attainment, workforce participation, and rights have improved, especially since Chile became a democracy again in 1990. Chile legalized divorce in 2004 and is also one of the few countries to have elected a female president.[37] However, Chilean women still face many economic and political challenges, including income disparity, high rates of domestic violence, and lingering gender roles.-


Main article: Women in Colombia

As established in the Colombian Constitution of 1991, women in Colombia have the right to bodily integrity and autonomy; to vote (see also: Elections in Colombia); to hold public office; to work; to fair wages or equal pay; to own property; to receive an education; to serve in the military in certain duties, but are excluded from combat arms units; to enter into legal contracts; and to have marital, parental and religious rights. Women's rights in Colombia have been gradually developing since the early 20th Century.[38]


Main article: Women in Ecuador

Women in Ecuador are women who live in or are from Ecuador, a country in South America. Ecuadorian women are generally responsible for the upbringing and care of children, and of husbands in Ecuador, and traditionally, men have taken a completely inactive role in this area. Recently, this has begun to change, due to the fact that more and more women are joining the workforce, which has resulted in men doing a little housework, and becoming slightly involved in the care of their children. This change has been greatly influenced by Eloy Alfaro's liberal revolution in 1906, in which Ecuadorian women were granted the right to work. Women's suffrage was granted in 1929.


Main article: Women in Guyana

Women in Guyana are South American women who lives in or are from Guyana. In general, Guyanese women plays significant roles in modern-day Guyanese society as house-workers, farmers, market vendors, teachers, nurses, civil servants, and clerks. A few women of Guyana have become senior position holders in the Government of Guyana; there had even been one Guyanese who took the role as the President of Guyana. Education-wise, women in Guyana have outperformed male Guyanese in regional examinations. There are currently more women in Guyana who attend education in universities.[39]


Main article: Women in Paraguay

Women in Paraguay live in a culture that has been undergoing rapid change in recent decades. Women's rights were expanded through constitutional and legal changes during the 1990s. Cultural attitudes towards many areas of women's lives are also changing. Yet Paraguayan women still face many challenges in trying to attain social equality.

The legal and government institutions that currently exist in Paraguay were developed in part through the efforts of feminist organizations in the country that held significant awareness-raising campaigns during the 1990s to formalize the guarantees of women's rights.[40]

The 1992 Constitution of Paraguay upholds the principle of equality for all individuals and prohibits discrimination. However, socio-cultural practises still support discrimination against women in some areas.


Main article: Women in Peru

Women in Peru represent a minority in both numbers and legal rights. Although historically somewhat equal to men, after the Spanish conquest the culture in what is now Peru became increasingly patriarchal. The patriarchal culture is still noticeable. Women receive less pay than men, have fewer employment and political opportunities, and are at times abused without repercussion. Contraceptive availability is not enough for the demand, and over a third of pregnancies end in abortion. Maternal death rates are also some of the highest in South America.

The Peruvian Government has begun efforts to combat the high maternal mortality rate and lack of female political representation, as well as violence against women. However, the efforts have not yet borne fruit.


Main article: Women in Suriname

Women in Suriname are women who were born in, live in, or are from Suriname. Surinamese women may be ethnically East Indian, Mixed, Creole/Afro-Surinamese, Javanese, Maroon, Amerindian, or of other ancestry. Many women of Suriname work in the informal sector and in subsistence agriculture.[41]


Main article: Women in Uruguay

Women in Uruguay are women who were born in, who live in, and are from Uruguay. According to Countries and Their Cultures, there is a "very high proportion" of Uruguayan women participating in the labor force of the South American country. And that Uruguayan legislation maintains that the women of Uruguay have equal rights to power, authority, and privileges". In reality however women are still not occupying "higher economic, professional, political, social, and religious positions".[42] In relation to the political arena, UN Women reported that a 2012 study made by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) ranked Uruguay as being "103rd out of 189 countries in terms of representation of women in Parliament" and that "only 12 per cent of the current members of the Chamber of Senators and Chamber of Deputies in Uruguay are women".[43]


Main article: Women in Venezuela

Women in Venezuela are South American women who live in or are from Venezuela. The roles of Venezuelan women may differ in urban and rural areas. By tradition, women perform household work and they may accept jobs related to domestic services. In rural areas, Venezuelan women share "demanding physical labor" with men. Due to the rise of the beauty pageant industry, Venezuelan women have become "highly regarded" as objects of beauty and sexuality.[44]

French Guiana[edit]

Women in French Guiana were women living in or are from French Guiana. Some of these women are from the Maroon society of French Guiana. Although matrilineal in nature, some Maroon women in French Guiana once acted only as assistants or basia to the kabiten or male leader. A common job for the Maroon women in French Guiana include cleaning work in coastal areas, particularly in the markets of Saint-Laurent and Cayenne to earn income that would support their children.[45]


  1. ^ See Mona Gleason and Adele Perry, eds. Rethinking Canada: The Promise of Women's History. (5th ed. 2006)
  2. ^ Jan Gregoire Coombs. Our Tangled French Canadian Roots. p. 48. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 
  3. ^ Landry, 1993, p. 586
  4. ^ Yves Landry, "Fertility in France and New France: The Distinguishing Characteristics of Canadian Behavior in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries," Social Science History (1993) 17#4 pp. 577-592, quote p 586; in JSTOR
  5. ^ Jan Noel, "N'être plus la déléguée de personne: une réévaluation du rôle des femmes dans le commerce en Nouvelle-France," Revue d'histoire de L'Amerique francaise, (2009) 63#2 pp 209-241.
  6. ^ Elise Chenier, "Class, Gender, and the Social Standard: The Montreal Junior League, 1912–1939," Canadian Historical Review (2009) 90#4 pp 671-710.
  7. ^ Tuñón Pablos, Julia. "Women in Mexico A Past Unveiled". University of Texas Press. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ Granma.
  10. ^ IPU Parline.
  11. ^ Municipal elections in Cuba by René Gómez Manzano
  12. ^ For One Week Cuba Changes Rules by John Rice, The Associated Press
  13. ^ "Roles of Women in the Dominican Republic" (PDF). THE BIG READ. National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  14. ^ "Machismo and the Dominican Republic". dr1.com. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  15. ^ Constitution of the Republic of Haiti, Title III: "Art. 17: All Haitians, regardless of sex or marital status, who have attained twenty-one years of age may exercise their political and civil rights if they meet the other conditions prescribed by the Constitution and by the law. Art. 18: Haitians shall be equal before the law, subject to the special advantages conferred on native-born Haitians who have never renounced their nationality."
  16. ^ Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)on “The Right of Women in Haiti to be Free from Violence and Discrimination.” OEA/Ser.L/V/II, Doc. 64, 10 March 2009.
  17. ^ a b Introduction, Puerto Rican Labor Movement
  18. ^ a b c Trinidad and Tobago, everyculture.com
  19. ^ United States Virgin Islands, everyculture.com
  20. ^ United Nations, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Combined third and fourth periodic reports of States Parties, El Salvador, 2001
  21. ^ "UNDP, Human Development Report, United Nations, 2011" (PDF). United Nations. 2011. 
  22. ^ United Nations Development Programme, 2011
  23. ^ Villareal, Ryan (January 18, 2013). "Half The Sky Is Falling: Systemic Violence Against Women In Guatemala Ripples From Brutal Civil War". International Business Times. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  24. ^ Allison, Mike (November 30, 2011). "'Femicide' in Guatemala: Does the concept obscure more than it illuminates?". Christian Science Monitor. 
  25. ^ a b UNDP. Human Development Report 2011: Sustainability and Equality. 2011. Technical Report.
  26. ^ "BBC News - In pictures: Sandinista revolution remembered". Bbc.co.uk. 2010-07-20. Retrieved 2016-08-01. 
  27. ^ Panama, everyculture.com
  28. ^ La Nación: Mujeres siguen siendo discriminadas (Spanish)
  29. ^ Educ.ar: La mujer y sus derechos (Spanish)
  30. ^ iEco: Brecha salarial (Spanish)
  31. ^ iEco: Las mujeres que manejan los millones (Spanish)
  32. ^ a b "The Situation of Women in Bolivia". UNICEF. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  33. ^ "Gender equality and social institutions in Bolivia". Social Institutions and Gender Index. Retrieved 26 February 2012. 
  34. ^ Lynn Walter (2001). Women's rights: a global view. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-313-30890-1. Retrieved 26 February 2012. 
  35. ^ "Guide to Law Online: Brazil | Law Library of Congress". Loc.gov. 2016-06-22. Retrieved 2016-08-01. 
  36. ^ "UNdata | country profile | Brazil". Data.un.org. 1945-10-24. Retrieved 2016-08-01. 
  37. ^ "Gender Equality and Social Institutions in Chile". Social Institutions and Gender Index. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  38. ^ (Spanish) University of Vigo; political rights and citizenship of Colombian women
  39. ^ Seecharan, Clem. "Guyana". Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  40. ^ "Social Institutions and Gender Index". http://genderindex.org. Retrieved September 4, 2011.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  41. ^ Suriname, everyculture.com
  42. ^ Division of Labor by Gender, Gender Roles and Statuses, Uruguay, everyculture.com
  43. ^ Young Uruguayan women aim to boost their role in politics, UN Women, January 29, 2013
  44. ^ Benavides, O. Hugo. "Venezuela". Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  45. ^ Polimé, Thomas (translated from Dutch by Kenneth Bilby). "The Role of Women in the Maroon Societies of Suriname and French Guiana". This article was commissioned by SITES for the Educational Resource Guide to the exhibition Creativity and Resistance: Maroon Cultures in the Americas. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 

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