Feminism in Chile

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Feminism in Chile has its own liberation language and activist strategies for rights. The Círculo de Estudios de La Mujer (Women's Studies Circle) is one example of a pioneering women’s organization during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973–1989) which redefined women's responsibilities and rights, linking “mothers’ rights” to women’s rights and women’s civil liberties.[1]


The most compactly organized feminist movement in South America in the early 20th century was in Chile. There were three large organizations which represented three different classes of people—the Club de Senoras of Santiago represented the more prosperous women; the Consejo Nacional de Mujeres represented the working class, such as schoolteachers; other laboring women organized another active society for the improvement of general educational and social conditions.[2]

While Chile was very conservative socially and ecclesiastically during this time, its educational institutions were opened to women since around the 1870s. When Sarmiento as an exile was living in Santiago, he recommended the liberal treatment of women and their entrance into the university. This latter privilege was granted while Miguel Luis Amunategui was minister of education. In 1859, when a former minister of education opened a contest for the best paper on popular education, Amunategui received the prize. Among the things which he advocated in that paper was the permitting of women to enter the university, an idea which he had received from Sarmiento. The development of woman's education was greatly delayed by the war between Chile, Peru, and Bolivia. President Balmaceda was a great friend of popular education. Under him, the first national high school, or "liceo," for girls was opened, about 1890. By the 1920s, there were 49 national "liceos" for girls, all directed by women. Besides these, there were two professional schools for young women in Santiago and one in each Province.[2]

The Consejo Nacional de Mujeres maintained a home for girls attending the university in Santiago, and helped the women students in the capital city. There were nearly a 1,000 young women attending the University of Chile in the early 20th century. The president of the Consejo Nacional was Amanda Labarca Hubertson. She and her husband both were directors of public schools in Santiago. The former was sent to the US by her Government in 1914 to study the educational system. She then became very much interested in the feminist movement, and on returning home was called to direct the Woman's Reading Club of Santiago. The conservative element of this club not caring to engage in community activities, but desiring only the intellectual work of a woman's club, the new Consejo Nacional was formed by the more progressive women. Labarca wrote several interesting volumes—one on women's activities in the US and another on the secondary schools of the US. She was accompanied in her work by a circle of women, most, of whom were connected with educational work in Chile. Several women's periodicals were published in Chile during this period, one of note being El Pefleca, directed by Elvira Santa Cruz.[2]

In a 1922 address given before the Club de Senoras of Santiago the Chilean publisher, Ricardo Salas Edwards, stated the following: "There have been manifested during the last 25 years phenomena of importance that have bettered woman's general culture and the development of her independence. Among them were the spread of establishments for the primary and secondary education of women; the occupations that they have found themselves as the teachers of the present generation, which can no longer entertain a doubt of feminine intellectual capacity; the establishment of great factories and commercial houses, which have already given her lucrative employment, independent of the home; the organization of societies and clubs; and, finally, artistic and literary activities, or the catholic social action of the highest classes of women, which has been developed as a stimulus to the entire sex during recent years."[2]

A new political body was formed in the early 1920s under the name of the Progressive Feminist Party with the purpose of gaining all the rights claimed by women. The platform was: (1) The right to the municipal and parliamentary vote and to eligibility for office. (2) The publishing of a list of women candidates of the party for public offices. (3) The founding of a ministry of public welfare and education, headed by a woman executive, to protect women and children and to improve living conditions.[3]

The founders of the party carried on a quiet campaign throughout the country. No distinction was made between the social positions of party adherents, the cooperation of all branches of feminine activity being sought to further the ends of the party. The press investigated public opinion regarding the new movement. Congress had already received favorably a bill to yield civil and legal rights to women. The greatest pressure was brought to bear to obtain the concession of legal rights to women to dispose of certain property, especially the product of their own work, and the transference to the mother, in the father's absence, of the power to administer the property of the child and the income therefrom until the minor's majority. It was understood that concession of these rights would elevate the authority of the mother and bring more general consideration for women, as well as benefits to family life and social welfare.[3]

In December 1948, the Chilean Congress had approved a bill granting full political rights to the women of Chile.[4]


  •  This article incorporates text from Bulletin of the Pan American Union, Volume 54, by Pan American Union, a publication from 1922 now in the public domain in the United States.
  1. Moone, Jadwiga E. Pieper; Campbell, Jean (March 2009). "Feminist Activism and Women's Rights Mobilization in the Chilean Círculo de Estudios de la Mujer : Beyond Maternalist Mobilization" (PDF). CENTER FOR THE EDUCATION OF WOMEN, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN. Retrieved 23 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Pan American Union (1922). Bulletin of the Pan American Union. 54 (Public domain ed.). The Union. pp. 355–.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Pan American Union (1922), p. 632
  4. Pernet, Corinne A. (November 2000). "Chilean Feminists, the International Women's Movement, and Suffrage, 1915–1950 (Woman Suffrage: The View from the Pacific)". Pacific Historical Review. 69 (4): 663–688.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>