Abstract

This essay explores why some groups of women in nineteenth-century Colombia were able to engage in public, political action but others were not. Elite conservative women (mostly white) and popular liberal women (mostly black and mulatta) found ways to participate publicly in republican politics, but elite liberal women (mostly white) and some popular conservative women (mostly Indian) were largely absent from the public sphere. I argue that colonial gender roles, elite and popular visions of citizenship, the contest between the Liberal and Conservative Parties, the structure of indigenous communities, and popular liberal women's access to independent economic resources all helped shape women's abilities to publicly practice republican politics. Instead of asserting that the rise of republicanism in nineteenth-century Latin America reduced women's political space, I propose that race, class, and partisan ideologies acted in complex and locally determined ways to both create male political subjects and open or close possibilities for women to forge political discourses and practices for themselves.

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