Women in Prerevolutionary Cuba
Among nations in which woman is honored, in which her influence dominates in society, there will assuredly be found enlightenment, progress, and true public life.
Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nineteenth-century Cuban poet1
For sale: one black girl, eleven or twelve years old, can sew.... very able.... for 18 ounces of silver.
Cuban newspaper advertisement (ca. 1848) 2
The Cuban woman is the queen of Eden... for her gracefulness, her beauty and her love of dancing.
Cuban song ( 1950s) 3
We women had nothing here before the revolution. Years ago they gave us the vote to shut us up... but after that, nothing.
Estela García, domestic servant ( 1950s) 4
What was the situation of Cuban women before 1959? From the perspective of the island's leading social chronicler fresh from the 1958 Red Ball at the Havana Country Club, their condition was splendid indeed. What an edifying sight--hundreds of elegant women, the cream of society, dancing the night away in a Havana that proudly boasted that it spent as much on parties "as any great capital of the world." 5 The Cuban foreign minister of that era, Andrés Vargas Gómez, observed that his generation had been brought up to revere women. "She was a sacred creature and it was her right to have precedence in all things." 6 The writer Lolo de la Torriente thought women were doing just fine in the 1950s: "There is no doubt that the Cuban woman has reached, in the course of the present century, great social and political importance....