Argentina entered into the modern age thanks to Peronism, established as a national movement with a Christian social orientation, based on an organized labor movement, moved by an industrial State which insisted on Social Justice and brought about a revolutionary inclusion of all members of a society in which women would have a central role.
Perón’s plans for the Secretaría de Trabajo y Previsión included the groundwork for giving women not only equal rights in the workplace but also equal civil rights, making them equal in the eyes of the law to the men of their era.
On October 3, 1944, Colonel Juan Perón inaugurated the Women’s Division of Work and Assistance. He affirmed that “dignifying women moral and materially is the equivalent of strengthening the family. To strengthen the family is to fortify the nation because the family is its first cell. To create a true social order one must begin with this basic cell, the Christian and rational basis for all human groups. From this labor would come the impulse for the study of the workingplace conditions of Argentine women so as to create the Statute of Feminine Work.
Also, on July 26, 1945, in a meeting held in the Chamber of Deputies whose topic was the Right of Women to Vote, Perón stated, “I am convinced of the necessity of giving women political rights and I uphold with all the strength of my convictions the intention of making this a reality in Argentina. It is necessary to give our Constitution its full application within the democratic forms which we practice; and we must repair this Constitution, mutilated in the places where it refers to women… . In synthesis, I am in favor of granting suffrage to women because there is no reason why this should not become a reality.”
A Commission Pro Women’s Suffrage was formed and its members sent a petition to the government formed after the Revolution of June 4, 1943, asking for the fulfillment of the Acts of Chapultepec, in which the signature countries that had not yet granted women the right to vote agreed to do so. This fact is important because it refutes the theory that giving women the right to vote was purely a Peronista electoral ploy. Perón’s support for women’s suffrage came before [the Peronista elections] and it was Perón who asked General Edelmiro Farrel’s government to take up the issue.
On September 3, 1945, the National Assembly of Women, presided over by Victoria Ocampo, resolved to reject the right of women to vote accorded by the de facto military government and asked that the Supreme Court of Justice take over the national government. The Assembly’s motto was “Women’s Suffrage sanctioned by a Congress voted into office as a result of honest elections.” After the imprisonment of Colonel Perón and the massive mobilization of workers that freed him on October 17, 1945, the topic of women’s suffrage was shelved to be formalized later.
Eva Perón accompanied her husband during the electoral campaign which took place at the end of 1945 and the beginning of 1946 – the first wife to accompany a candidate during a campaign tour – and actively helped him as no woman had ever done before. Her action is symbolic of how women began to make inroads into masculine politics.
Once elected President, General Perón returned to the question of women’s suffrage when he inaugurated the congressional session which began on June 26, 1946. There he affirmed that “The growing intervention of women in social, economic, cultural and other activities has authorized her to take on an important place in the civic and political action of the country. The incorporation of women into our political activity, with all the rights at present given only to men, will be an unquestionable factor in the perfecting of our civic life. At an opportune time, I will have the honor of offering for your consideration a proposal for a law establishing the right to vote and other rights for women.
The proposal for a law concerning women’s right to vote was included in the first Five Year Plan, sent to Congress on October 19, 1946. Eva Perón had the capability and the will to carry out these iniciatives.
She stated on February 27, 1946, that “Argentine women have superseded the period of civil tutorials. Women must affirm their action. Women must vote. A woman is the moral foundation of her home and she must occupy a place in the complex social framework of her people. The new necessity of organizing more extensive and reformatted groups demands it. The transformation of the concept of what it means to be a woman demands it because women have made more and more sacrifices in order to meet their obligations without asking for even minimum of rights.”
During her humanitarian mission to Europe, Evita would say in Madrid, on June 15, 1947, that “This century will not go down in history under the name of “Century of World Wars” … but rather with a much more significant name: “The Century of Victorious Feminism.” This concept was united not only to the idea of an integration of Argentine women into civic and political action but was also extended to all the women of the world.
Within this framework, Evita began her campaign for women’s suffrage by persuading legislators, by creating awareness in women who timidly began to see Peronism as a channel opening onto new civic participation, by beginning a radio and press campaign so that all Argentine women, whether Peronistas or not, would take ownership of their legitimate political rights.
Evita’s decisiveness carried the day and on September 23, 1947, Law 13.010 was passed, giving women the right to vote. Immediately plans for registering all the women in the country began to take shape.
Given the characteristics of feminine participation in the political world of that time, Eva Perón sought to create an organization that would belong exclusively to women. Progress was made when, on September 14, 1947, the Superior Council of the Peronista Party decided to modify its affiliation rules so that in the future another Peronista Party, made up entirely by women, would be formed. The Peronista Women’s Party (Partido Peronista Feminino) held its First National Assembly on July 26, 1949, in the Cervantes Theater in Buenos Aires. After formally creating the Partido Peronista Feminino, the assembly elected Eva Perón as President by an ample majority. The PPF created “unidades básicas,” neighborhood centers which engaged in social action and worked closely with the Fundación Eva Perón and the Health Ministry of the Nation.
During the November 11, 1951 presidential elections, women were candidates for all the national legislative offices; 3,816,654 women voted for the first time and 2,441,558 voted for the presidential ticket Perón-Quijano (63.9% for the Peronista Party and 30.8% for the Unión Cívica Radical Party). Thousands of women’s dreams came true when twenty-three deputies and six senators joined Congress in 1952.
The Fundación Eva Perón made the application of social justice a reality. The Fundación was dedicated to making women capable of joining the workforce while giving them the attention they needed through the Temporary Homes, the Nursing School, the Women Employees’ Home, the policlinics, hospitals and direct social aid which benefited thousands of women in Argentina and around the world.
Evita and the team of people who formed the Peronista Women’s Party and the Fundación Eva Perón believed in a rational concept of integrated help based not only on Perón’s doctrine but also on the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, humanism based on a profound Christian commitment which is only achieved when it is oriented to the common good-in accordance with God’s will-where all receive support and social justice.
Perhaps now that people of today are no longer so concerned about helping those in need, the legacy of this young woman may cause us to reflect on how much can be achieved in very little time when our thoughts and actions are based on love, solidarity and work.
Lic. Pablo A. Vázquez
Instituto Nacional Eva Perón