Throughout history, women have played a vital role in society. From nurturing family life in the home to fighting in revolutions to participating in politics, women have shown constant bravery and sacrifice in the face of the world’s adversity. Although today, women enjoy illustrious careers in business and politics, this was not always the case. By comparing and contrasting women’s suffrage movements in Western Europe and the lack there of in Latin America, we can see a clear picture of women’s roles from 1750 to 1914.
Women’s roles in Western Europe and Latin America can be compared in that neither group of women had many rights. In Western Europe, specifically France, women supported charities, worked as teachers, and were able to participate in political discussion in French salons (places of gathering much like coffee houses) but did not have the right to vote, divorce, or work in politics. French women were allowed to work in small businesses, often alongside their husband, but this was only common amongst lower class women and would never have been acceptable with the aristocracy. Even after the first French Revolution, which was meant to be a fight for total equality, this remained the case. French women would not gain the right to vote until the 1940’s, but, by 1894, women in Britain and Scotland were given the right to vote in local elections as long as they were married and owned property. In Latin America there was no revolution for freedom, as there was in France. Brazil was handed its independence by Portugal without any need of a rebellion. Therefore, women in Latin America were content to remain in the position they always had, in the home. While Latin American women did gain the newfound freedom to participate in political discussion, much like the women in French salons, they still did not have the right to vote. Cultural hindrances also kept Latin American women from attaining positions in politics or business. Latin American women were expected to follow the Catholic cultural belief that women should improve society as wives and mothers rather than in politics or other prominent positions. Women’s roles in Western Europe and Latin America were very similar in that neither region expected women to work outside of the home, and some parts of Western Europe, like Latin America, still had not given women the right to vote by 1914.
Although women’s roles were very similar in Western Europe and Latin America the mindset behind women’s roles was very different. Although most countries in Western Europe did not allow women to vote from 1750 to 1914, it was apparent that the tides were changing. Unlike in Latin America, women in Europe were fighting for suffrage and demanding rights. During the first French Revolution, women demanded the right to bear arms, so they could participate in the rebellion. After the new, democratic, French leadership wrote the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen,” a woman named Olympe de Gouges wrote the “Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizen.” Her declaration included the right to vote, divorce, own property in marriage, be educated, and have a career. Although the men in government did not take this declaration seriously, it was obvious that the fight for women’s suffrage in Europe was not going away. Slowly but surely women began gaining rights in the Balkans, the Pacific, and, just a few years after 1914, in Western Europe. Although women’s suffrage did not become fully realized in Europe until after the period between 1750 to 1914, it was gaining momentum and would come to fruition soon after. However, in Latin America women’s suffrage was not a large movement and women did not gain the right to vote until the 1930s, with some restrictions. This was probably because there was no revolution in Latin America to inspire women to fight for their rights. Revolution was happening everywhere in Europe, but Brazil was given their independence by Portugal, probably because Portugal was so weak after the Napoleonic Wars that they would not have been able to handle a rebellion in Brazil, if one occurred. Although women had similar roles in Western Europe and Latin America from 1750 to 1914, the women themselves had different mindsets toward women’s suffrage, and the attitude toward women’s rights was very different.
Overall, women’s roles in Western Europe and Latin America were quite similar, but the main difference was the desire for change in Europe where there was none in the Latin realm. Despite hindrances, the women of Western Europe and Latin America, during the mid-eighteenth and early twentieth centuries, paint a clear picture of women’s roles, bravery, and sacrifice from 1750 to 1914.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
S Williams on February 01, 2015:
Nice article, but Latin America did have many revolutions throughout this period. You chose Brazil to show that it didn't but that was an exception, not a rule. Haiti, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Gran Colombia, Central America, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, The Dominican Republic, and more, all had to fight bloody wars for independence. It was not in any way handed to them. Brazil just got lucky that Portugal was so weak, but the rest were originally Spanish and French colonies.
Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on March 21, 2013:
Excellent history and comparative analysis of these two suffrage movements, MasonZgoda. Western Europe's movement compares to our movement though we may have been slower.