On August 26th, 1920, American women finally achieved victory in their struggle for equal voting rights with the passage of the 19th amendment. While American women were proudly waving the flag and casting their ballots, women across the Pacific were only knee-deep in the river of feminist revolution. These revolutionary concepts quickly flooded Latin American shores, but it was an arduous battle for Peruvian women against the patriarchal currents of control.
The highly stratified, aristocratic society of Peru made it extremely difficult for Peruvian women to break free from the "housewife" mold men had created for them. However, the flood gates could not withstand the international pressures promoting equality and universal voting rights.
María Jesús Alvarado is considered the "Elizabeth Cady Stanton" of the Peruvian suffrage movement. Her socialist writings and motivated activism fueled the fire for women’s suffrage in Peru at exactly the same time American women were celebrating their victory. María succeeded in founding Peru’s first women’s rights organization, Evolución Feminina, in 1915. By 1924, she was imprisoned for her "radical" ideas and then banished to Argentina.
After Carrie Chapman Catt, a forerunner of the American suffragist movement,visited Peru in 1923 the National Council of Women in Peru was founded. It was then that Peruvian women relentlessly began fighting for their right to vote. With the reality of American suffrage in the background, it was no longer a hopeless dream. However, it was not until 1955 that Peruvian women finally balanced the gender scale and gained the right to vote from President Manuel Odría, who hoped to secure their support in the upcoming presidential election.
Today is not only a day to celebrate our political freedoms here in America, but it is a day to recognize the unforgettable heroism and fervor of women worldwide.