Outcome of the Feminist Movement in Latin America

Nurses in Cuba

The feminist movement in Latin America brought about change. Striking developments were set in place regarding the changing status of women.

Throughout most of the nineteenth century, women were limited in their role. Women had few educational opportunities and were barred from distinguished professions. Women were deemed inferior to men, showing that the machismo attitude still existed. They remained under the authority of their fathers, brothers and husbands. Matrimony, motherhood and domestic duties were what females were bound to. With this philosophy being predominant, modernization at first seemed unattainable. After the opening of the twentieth century, certain changes were evident.

Process of Modernization

The process of modernization in Latin America was largely one of following the models set by the United States and by those nations of Western Europe. The ideas set forth by these countries fascinated the Latin Americans. In order to compete at an equal level, their ideals had to grow just as rapidly.
Onset of the Feminist Movement

Various countries began inciting change. With the coming of World War I and the feminist movements emerging in the United States, rapid strides were made in advancing women’s rights. Feminist movements began emerging in almost all Latin American countries such as Uruguay, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Cuba and Brazil.

In the article, “Struggle for Women’s Equality in Cuba” the author Rose Berbeo stated, “…before 1959, only a very small percentage of women in Cuba worked outside of the home – somewhere between 10 and 15 percent at most – and the majority worked as maids. More than half of peasant women were illiterate.” Women in Cuba have made tremendous strides economically due to a socialist revolution eliminating the economic foundations of women’s oppression. “…Just as importantly, a revolutionary leadership consistently led and supported the efforts of women to carry out a fundamental transformation in their conditions of life… .”

The education of women was also rapidly changing due to the onset of the feminist movement. In the end of the 1930’s, women were admitted to universities and higher professional school in Latin American countries. Berbeo discussed how the socialist revolution helped eliminate illiteracy while educating “…hundreds of thousands of women, especially working-class and peasant women; schools for domestic workers, peasant women, and former prostitutes who were then able to become part of the broad labor force; and the establishment of the Federation of Cuban Women.” Distinguished professions such as law, medicine and teaching were finally becoming attainable to women and in countries such as Brazil, large numbers of women were trained as engineers.

Women’s clubs and benevolent societies, which had existed in scattered areas in the nineteenth century, were showing a marked increase in numbers and membership during the twentieth century. As seen in Brazil, the Center for the Brazilian Woman developed in 1975 as the first feminist organization in Brazil. It showed an increased number of members due to their fight for women’s rights by challenging such issues as gender violence and domestic abuse while providing services to battered women.

The feminist movement in Latin America brought about change. Striking developments were set in place regarding the changing status of women.


  1. Berbeo, Rose. “Struggle for Women’s Equality in U.S., Cuba”, The Militant, 62(13), April 1998.
  2. Bryson, Lyman, eds.. Social Change in Latin America Today, New York: Random House, 1960