The Normal School for Women and Liberal Feminism in Mexico City, Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century

By Jimenez, Rosa Maria Gonzalez | Resources for Feminist Research, Spring-Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

The Normal School for Women and Liberal Feminism in Mexico City, Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century


Jimenez, Rosa Maria Gonzalez, Resources for Feminist Research


In 1904 the first liberal feminist association is formed at the Normal de Profesoras (Normal School for Women) in Mexico City. The article profiles the first generation of feminists (writers, teachers, and atypical women), their demands and their social networks. Drawing from the life story of Dolores Correa Zapata, the influence she exerted upon the next generation of feminists--who attended events such as the Baltimore Feminist Congress (United States, 1922), The National Convention of Women (Mexico City, 1925), and the International Feminist Congress--is identified.

Feminism lies in raising women to the level of their species, the human species.

Dolores Correa Zapata (1906, p. 16)

Feminist culture, so debated nowadays, ... must have the Normal School for Women as its core

Maria Arias Bernal (1916, p. 69)

Introduction

As the twentieth century began to unfold, a group of women advocating for feminism in Mexico City later came to be known as the first wave of Mexican feminism (Lau, 1987). This paper attempts to analyze the activities of these women as agents of social change by identifying their demands, accomplishments and social networks.

International research has documented that a feminist movement, linked to liberal, socialist and anarchist tendencies advocating women's right to vote and access upper education, erupted onto the political scene in European cities late in the nineteenth century (Anderson and Zinnsser ,1992).

In Mexico, Macias (1982) conducted pioneering research on the Mexican feminist movement from the late nineteenth century to the 1940s. He identified the existence of a feminist association in Mexico City in 1904, namely the Sociedad Protectora de la Mujer (Society for the Protection of Women), though he failed to delve deeper into the subject.

Other research focusing on the revolutionary period has singled out Hermila Galindo de Topete's request to the Constituent Congress regarding women's suffrage, as well as the First Feminist Congress, which took place in 1916 in Merida, as symbolic cornerstones of the feminist movement (Cano, 1990, 1991; Lau and Ramos, 1993; Lau, 1995; Ramos, 1996). (1)

In Mexican history, other women have fought for their rights (if not openly using this particular terminology), even from far more radical standpoints than their predecessors. I offer two examples: Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651-1695) was silenced by the Catholic clergy, not for being a poet, as other nuns were, but for being erudite in her own right (Paz, 1983). Ignacia Riechy, a patriot who wished to organize a women's battalion to fight against the French intervention, committed suicide in 1866 because of a liberal soldier's joke about her "masculine" appearance. However, their participation was individual rather than as part of a political movement.

A political movement implies interaction, agreement, and social networking (2) between individuals who freely decide to stand for a social cause. Furthermore, if it indeed entails movement, it is bound to produce a reaction. The pioneering women introduced in this paper gathered to discuss and bring about change in the life of Mexican women. As part of the feminist movement, they exposed the subordination of women by publicly advocating for particular demands.

Methodology

This research involves the so-called "cultural history" (Burke, 2003), and in particular the "history of women" (Ramos, 1996; Scott, 2003). Making use of Lopez Austin's metaphor (1990), similar to a telephone company technician I investigated "the order of the wiring in the social subsoil" of women writers of the late nineteenth century. I designed a database of women writers who were popular between 1880 and 1905, and I created another database concerning women writers from magazines intended for a female audience: El Correo de las Senoras (CS) (1882-1883), El Album de la Mujer (EAM) (1883-1886), Violetas del Anahuac (VA) (1887-1889), and La Mujer Mexicana (LMM) (1904-1908). …

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