oa African Yearbook of Rhetoric - A long history of struggles, setbacks and hopes : Argentina - Argentine voices

Volume 6, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 2220-2188
  • E-ISSN: 2305-7785



Eva Peron (1919-1952) is one of the most important female political figures in the history of Argentina and is an essential reference when studying Peronism, on the one hand, and women's political leadership, on the other. As is widely known, Eva Peron (Evita) was the wife of Juan Domingo Peron, president of Argentina three times, 1946-1952, 1952-1958 (government interrupted by the military coup of 1955) and 1973-1974 (interrupted by his passing in 1974). Eva Peron played an active role as First Lady, as President of the Women's Peronist Party, President of the Eva Peron Foundation and "Spiritual Leader of the Nation". Her political action was specifically focused on achieving labour and social rights. Part of these achievements is the law of women's suffrage. During the period prior to the enactment of Law 13, 010, which established women's suffrage, Eva Peron's public participation was intense, through radio and print, in order to promote and defend it. The law was approved by the National Congress on 9 September, but its enactment was postponed until 23 September. Its text, only seven articles long, would allow women - four years later, in the 1952 presidential elections - to vote for the first time. The speech presented here was delivered on the balcony of the Casa Rosada, on 23 September 1947, immediately after the enactment of the law, which had been signed that day by President Juan Domingo Peron and Interior Minister Angel Borlenghi, within the framework of a popular celebration held in the Plaza de Mayo. In Argentina, the claim for equal civil rights for women, including women's suffrage, has its origin in the socialist and anarchist militants of the early twentieth century, among whom are Elvira Rawson de Dellepiane, Cecilia Grierson and Alicia Moreau de Justo. On the other hand, women's sectors of the national oligarchy were also in favour of voting rights for women, but with a marked selectivity that did not question the injustice of an established social order that held women back, a questioning that was at the core of Evita's messages. Part of that sector are Victoria Ocampo, Susana Larguia and Maria Rosa Oliver, who in 1936 founded the Argentine Women's Union. Earlier, in 1932, Carmela Horne had founded the Argentine Association for Women's Suffrage. In the decades leading up to 1947, over thirty more projects were started to promote women's voting rights, but none of them came to be discussed in the parliamentary bodies. The first one dates from 1911, driven by socialist MP Alfredo Palacios, and even predates the Saenz Peña Law of 1912, by which the electoral methods in Argentina are democratised, when the secret, compulsory and universal vote is instituted for male Argentine citizens over the age of eighteen years. However, with the Saenz Peña Law, political fraud could not be avoided, and this allowed conservative sectors to take power during the "Infamous Decade" until the military coup of 1943, an event that would facilitate the rise to power of Juan Domingo Peron three years later through institutional means. Eva Peron's campaign to achieve women's suffrage law is framed within this context and is projected towards the 1952 elections, in which women vote for the first time. While Eva Peron was driving a shared claim, both with liberal leftist leaders and those of the oligarchy, her speech is "founding" because it establishes, for the first time, a new recipient: it politically calls on women, all women, building a civic consciousness while maintaining the suitable indispensable condition as the "basic pillar of the home". That is, the symbolic space that is generated incorporates women into the political scene but without losing sight of the spiritual values or traditionally assigned gender roles. Eva Peron's speech announcing women's voting rights establishes women in a politically meaningful place, on a par with the place held during Peronism. In this sense, it builds a national future in tension with the political model of the oligarchic past and puts not only the role of the Peronist woman, but of all women as citizens, at stake. This differentiates it from previous speeches that promoted women's right to vote but were directed, in their claim, only at men or women who had "political awareness".

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