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Women γν Colombian Organizations, 1900-40: A Study γν Changing Gender Roles René De La Pedraja Toman Very little is known about women in early twentieth-century Colombia because most studies have focused their attention on the post-1940 period, with only limited historical references. This tendency applies whether analyzing the feminist movement,1 women in the labor force,2 in the textile industry,3 or women in education.4 The pathbreaking study by Lucy Cohen on the impact of Colombian professional women in the 1950s and 1960s is a notable exception5 because it does provide important historical material about women in education. It should be noted that in the published work, scholars of other disciplines have predominated, and that historians using archival sources have not yet written studies devoted exclusively to Colombian women in the early twentieth century. During the colonial period and the nineteenth century, women had very little and usually no opportunity to participate directly in organizations , but in the period 1900-40 women began to appear in increasing numbers in many types of organizations. The purpose of this paper is to trace the gradual entry of women into these new fields and to try to draw some conclusions about what this entry has meant for women's position in Colombia. The process whereby Colombian women entered organizations is more revealing because a formal "Women's Club" movement like the one that spread in the United States from the end of the nineteenth century did not appear in Colombia, perhaps because it was not considered acceptable. Instead, women generally tried to justify their participation in organizations for which male precedents already existed. The organizations studied in this paper cover virtually all those areas in which women made themselves present in the governing boards and not just as minority and unrepresented members. In effect, this paper will use female representation in the governing boards as one key element in determining the degree of women's participation in different types of organizations, although care will be taken to show when this representation was the rule or the exception. The organizations have been grouped into six sections: the religious and educational; charities; charities for women; cultural and civic; labor movement; and organizations for servants. A few comments at the end try to draw some general conclusions from the evidence presented in this paper. © 1990 Journal of Women's History, Vol. 2 No. ι (Spring)_________________ 1990 DeLaPedrajaTomán 99 The Traditional Spheres: Religion and Education Religion since colonial times and education since the nineteenth century had been considered proper activities for women. During the first 40 years of the twentieth century, women expanded their participation in the organizations of these two traditional areas. During the colonial period, women's involvement in religion had been limited basically to the convent or to the home. The overwhelming majority of lay brotherhoods or cofradÃ-as were for men. These cofradÃ-as, besides praying and organizing religious ceremonies, also administered endowments to support charities and provide mutual-aid services. Only a few female brotherhoods existed; yet these, along with those for men, disintegrated in 1861 when the central state confiscated church wealth and all religious properties. As a replacement, men began to organize prayer groups, but it was not until the end of the nineteenth century that women under church guidance finally took the bold step of setting up their own prayer groups, such as the one founded in Popayán in 1890.6 Women's formal prayer groups appeared in particular during the 1910s and the 1920s, and almost all had a common structure and purpose. Membership was exclusively female. Women elected their own governing board, but the actual control of the organization and its finances was in the hands of a priest "director" who was also the spiritual counselor. The members' duties were to attend mass on certain days, meet together for group prayers, promise to say individual prayers, and pay some minor dues. Examples of these prayer groups were the League of Latin American Catholic Women founded in Bogotá in 1923 and the Association of Catholic Mothers of Medellin founded in 1933.7 Women and men each had their own respective prayer organizations, but...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 98-119
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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