Before the Revolution
Women's Rights and Right-Wing Politics in Nicaragua, 1821–1979
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Penn State University Press
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The story I tell in this book is a heartbreaker. I document the rise of first-wave feminism in Nicaragua during the first decades of the twentieth century and the movement’s co-optation by a U.S.–backed dictator. I then address the reasons why so many working- and middle-class women...
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In 1979, Nicaraguans overwhelmingly supported the overthrow of the repressive and corrupt Somoza family, who—backed by the United States— had been in power for forty-three years. Nicaraguans’ support for the leftist Sandinista guerrillas who toppled the dictatorship...
1. Feminism Before Somoza
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In 1940, teacher Josefa Toledo de Aguerri, a self-proclaimed feminist, suffragist, and advocate of women’s education, published a series of essays entitled “Feminism and Education.” In one of them, she wrote, “One of feminism’s characteristics is to consider it possible for woman to find in...
2. From Feminism to Partisan Suffragist Politics
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Turning to the period from the 1930s to the 1950s, this chapter examines suffragist efforts, the divisions within the suffragist movement, and the eventual dominance of partisan politics in the larger Nicaraguan women’s movement. In addition to covering the last political battles of Josefa Toledo de Aguerri...
3. The Aftermath of Women's Suffrage
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Although the Somozas maintained themselves in power through a dictatorship, they held periodic elections, which had great symbolic value for Somocistas despite their fraudulent nature. These elections were especially important for the women supporters of the regime...
4. Somocista Women's Lives
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“Luis Somoza was my political mentor.” Those were the first words Marta García (pseudonym) shared with me after I told her why I was interested in interviewing her. Significantly, this remark represents not only one woman’s personal experience with the Somoza family but also that of an entire...
5. The Activism and Legacy of Nicolasa Sevilla
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We cannot properly understand the Somocista women’s movement unless we take into account Nicolasa Sevilla’s support for the Somoza regime. This chapter documents the role Sevilla played in the dictatorship. Unlike the Ala, which originated as a means to channel middle-class women’s...
6. Sex and Somocismo
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Before the advent of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in the 1960s, the nation-building project of the Somozas’ Nationalist Liberal Party was the most inclusive ever to be promoted in Nicaragua. But it was full of contradictions for women. It incorporated women into the nation’s economic system...
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The twentieth century was marked by four major women’s movements in Nicaragua: first-wave feminism, a Somocista women’s movement, a Sandinista women’s movement, and second-wave feminism. Before the Revolution deals with the first two—and most misunderstood—of these movements. ...
Appendix A: Union de Mujeres Americanas (UMA) Founding Members
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Appendix B: Central Women's Committee Members
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Publication Year: 2011