The Policing of Working-Class Families (Argentina 1943-1955)

Paper to be delivered at the 3rd Carleton Conference on the History of the Family, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 15-17 May 1997

Seminar on Gender, the Family and State Formation.
Dr Marta Zabaleta
School of Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities
Middlesex University

Methodological introduction

The intersection of gender stratification, economy and the family or household is an important but relatively neglected triangle in the work of social scientists. An effort to touch all three sides of the triangle began -so it has been claimed -with the edition of a special issue of the Journal of Family Issues (Blumberg,1988); Latin American cases were excluded because of the lack of material. A new collection of articles appeared in 1991: all the chapters provide new theory and/ or data on the interrelationships among economy, gender and family (or household) variables (Blumberg, 1991). Moreover, to varying degrees, these new articles consider the ‘triple overlap’ at both the macro and micro levels. Virtually all the chapters mention intrahousehold stratification, along gender, age and/or class lines. Certain common themes are further specified by some of the authors: the advantages of a class analysis in understanding intrahousehold power and the extent to which housework is the aspect of family life most resistant to changes in the woman's economic and labour position are among them. Varieties of theory illuminating the triple overlap excluded Latin American countries again, with the exception of Guyana.


On the other hand, Women, the State and Political Parties in Latin America have been at the centre of the most recent theoretical efforts on gender and nationalism. Sonia Alvarez, 1990, and Sarah Radcliffe, 1993, in some sense had lead the exploration of these issues in a somehow functionalist fashion. While Molineux's work on women and the Sandinist Revolution in Nicaragua (1986) opened the way to a new way of thinking these matters; but still, the policing of family by the State in Latin America was nowhere to be found.


Finally, Wallerstein and Smith (1991) have proposed five orienting processes which add up to a concept of household (hogar) and therefore of householding that they claim serves as a basis of analysis of empirical reality. Their contribution, from the perspective adopted in this paper, is perhaps their emphasis on the need of reconceptualizing the interrelations between the household, the workplace, and the state; as well as their proposition that states always have policies about household composition and boundaries, and, furthermore, that such policies are not simply given, but are subject to change. 'States therefore constrain households', they conclude.  Adding '...but conversely the state itself is the vector of political forces and households participate in these political forces that put pressure upon the state.’1 2  


In an attempt to demonstrate rather than challenge such propositions, and with the intent of feeling a vacuum in feminist theory on women and nationalism, in this paper the family, its organization and functions during the Peronist Regime in Argentina (1943- 1955) are analyzed in a new and rather different way. The system of families is seen here as one of the Ideological Apparatus of the State; the working classes's household is treated as an economic unit and the vocable 'family' considered as one of Peron's favourite ideological interpellations.3 This approach calls for an integrated examination of the variables studied, with the intention of explaining- as opposite to describing- the complexity of historically determined families. The context of the case under study here is Argentina during the period 1943-55. Why to choose this case?


I find of special interest in this time of economic recession and enlargement of the capitalist market towards a consolidated globalization, together with the resurgence of nationalism in Europe, to learn for example from the experience of partial substitution of the Welfare State by the Eva Perón Foundation (Fundación de Acción Social Eva Perón); and from the role of Evita in creating a link between the so-called private and public spheres, extensively using the mass media, including television (introduced in the country thanks to her in 1951). Moreover, I will locate the connection between Women, Nationalism and the State in a historical perspective, and use it to explain the process of creation of the material conditions which helped to construct a distinctive political identity among the majority of Argentinian women between 1943 and 1955. I have called it a case of female social reformist consciousness, but I will not elaborate on that issue here, as I have extensively referred to it elsewhere.4


This paper has been divided into five parts. Part I places the discussion into a perspective of two centuries; it intents to confer logic to paradoxes or apparent contradictions, so frequently associated with Argentina's culture and politics. There follows in Part II a brief presentation of issues currently debated around women's support to nationalism and possible directions that a feminist theory of nationalism might take; it offers some ideas concerning the building of a feminist and marxist theory of Peronism. Part III is devoted to an exploration of the political and ideological functions of the term 'family' in Argentina between 1943-55. In Part IV, Peronist State policies towards the family as an institutionalised household are fully explored, and especial attention is given to their consequences for women's position and the way in which women's perceived their reality.  Part 5 is devoted to the Foundation for Aid and Social Assistance. The paper finishes with a set of rather provisional conclusions that, by sending the reader back to the point of departure, are trying to show the complexity of a subject still in search of its authors. How can everybody be liberated from the chrysalises of gender and nationality? The solution(s) are to be found throughout new practices; most certainly, I do not intend to offer anything else than an  alternative theoretical option to read and learn from our gendered past.





Women and the Underdeveloped State: Two Hundred Years as 'Outsiders'?: PREAMBLE   


An example of the rather cumbersome relationship between women and Argentinian State, is offered by News in Brief in The Guardian:


'Baby trader' held. An argentine judge has ordered the arrest of a former police doctor, Jorge Ferges, accused of dealing with the babies of political prisoners in the “dirty war” against leftwingers in the 1970s.5


It could have been added that this action was prompted by the long campaign of Argentinian women mobilizing on behalf of their relatives, defiantly exercising their own rights as citizens. In other words, the shocking news was in my view one of the tangible results of the struggles of the same women- mothers and grandmothers basically- that during the war between Argentina and Great Britain for Las Malvinas/Falkland Islands, 1982, added a whole new dimension to the nationalist nature of the conflict; this was synthesised in the slogan coined by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo/ Mothers of May Square for the occasion:


¡Las Malvinas son Argentinas,

Los desaparecidos también!


'The Malvinas are Argentinian,

so are the Disappeared!.'6


In ratifying in first place the oldest nationalist slogan concerning the islands, the female relatives of the Argentinian Disappeared gave an example of the way nationalism is sometimes used by disfranchised citizens in their appeal to the state. It is equally important to try and evaluate its meaning, I believe, in the context of reminding that Great Britain has played from well before and ever after its invasion of Malvinas in 1832, a crucial role in the process of construction of the imaginary Other(s) in Argentina.


For example, Great Britain, which was used as a major signifier of otherness in the constitution and/or reinforcing of previous trends in Argentina's nationalist discourses, was of enormous help for the first Peronist government (1946-1951)- perhaps the only Argentinian State able to profit directly from this, and without even the need to resort to violence.


Fear, love, hate, penetration with violence, rape, are some of the erotic sensations raised by everything which is British and related to the Falklands Islands, themselves the object of sexual desire expressed in different ways, of course, by women and men in Argentina during the war. The object of a dispute mainly among machos, these tiny points in the South Atlantic map are quite well located from the point of view of the general goals of the masculine desire: outside the mainland, to start with. For as Lacan has stated, desire, and with it sexual desire, can only exist by virtue of its alienation. The ideological world of machismo conceals this from the consciousness of Argentinian citizens, who are supposed to feel wholly certain of a sexual identity: the dual, heterosexual repressed sexuality of the Catholic housewife-virgin Mary and her working-class husband, José.


The drive to recover what has been 'lost' is a substantive part of every nation -imagined or virtually real; 'communities' like them are always dominated by males who present themselves as heterosexuals. (Is the Vatican State an exception?). The males' fears of being unable to recover from the 'loss' (of land, pride, sexual desire, or whatever) justify in their manly eyes any form of aggression; in fact, any nationalist notion is ultimately based upon the need, and the reassurance, of having 'too much'. This area of excess is visited most frequently by the ultra-machista men, anxious as they are of having their politically correct jouissance at least once in their life time.7


Despite their drives, historically the generals in Latin America have found it difficult to have an Other of the Other, the only way of rounding the circle. The closest to it was the invention of the nation: a maternal body where the adult men could project their drives and frustrations. At the top of this male fantasy has been placed God, who can paranoically be used as the Other; or, in her/his absence, be replaced by a divine man, an impostor.8 This is one of the reasons why, at least in my interpretation, the most nationalist of all the Argentinian governments to date, Peron's first presidency (1946-1951), was at the same time one without territorial expansionist ambitions.


It was because Perón was canonised by his powerful wife as God, and the nation addressed by both of them as the Other. Perón become through Evita's speeches the Other of the Other; Perón's Other was the Nation; a nation in turn formed by different ethnicities, classes, races and genders which were presented as corporative and/or complementary. For example, only two genders were officially recognised, around two sexes of heterosexual desires. Eva Perón (representative of the good mothers and wives) and the People (all the peronist men and women), were 'protected' in Perón's Nation against deviation of any kind. For example, Peronism tried to ignore the existence of native races as much as it could; and the Peróns referred to the less well off of their men supporters as los 'cabecitas negras' (the black little heads) or los grasitas (the greasy ones), obscuring the social divisions among races and ethnicities. The opposition, instead, was presented as formed by different imagined 'races' and 'ethnicities'. Patriarchs from the Church, Armed Forces, Political Parties, Trade Unions and landowners were re-born into the ‘race of the oligarchy’; the feminists 'belonged to another race of women: the ones who tried to be men', according to Eva Perón's auto-biography. This internal Other, the sum of the opposition, was presented by Eva Perón as very dangerous, to the extent that her sexo-political nationalism in the first stages of Peronism didn't in fact need to bother too much with the foreigner Other(s).


So, in my interpretation of the phenomenon known as Peronist Populism, Eva Perón was the key to several political drives, and, to some extent, her (many) names, missions, roles and images were very functional to the preservation of masculine and capitalist privileges, even when in reformulated versions in tune with the modernization of the economy. Evita was in fact the nationalist equivalent of the Malvinas; the islands were kept on freeze for a while, but their symbolic links were not severed, nor by any means were they obsolete; rather, they were hidden as if they were the most obscure object of the bourgeois desire; to be used only in case of extreme national political impotence. Ironically, perhaps, even the Queen of Great Britain accepted to play the role of the ideologically constructed enemies of Perón's Argentina, when she refused to discuss Welfare State policies with Eva Perón while having tea at Buckingham Palace. In view of that decision, Eva Perón cancelled her visit to GB in 1947. The Queen, the Other, let the Argentina's government know she was going on holiday; and Evita, the symbol of Argentina's nationhood, went straight to meet some of the most important politicians of the Americas in Brazil.


There she was received with patriotic veneration by the Brazilian masses: a real signifier of a nation against an empire. No wonder the USA's delegate commented afterwards that Eva Perón was one of the most formidable politicians he had met in his whole career.


My hypothesis is that the National Holy Trinity 9 at the  time looked like:


Perón (GOD)


Eva Perón (Virgin Mother)



í        î

People (Peronists)            Opposition (Antiperonists)


More important for the line of reasoning we are following, is the other sacred and "shared passion":


ISLAS MALVINAS = Argentinian Nationhood


This was used by the Mothers as a rhetoric subterfuge, with the intention of conferring legitimacy to the political prisoners's civil rights; that is to say, to people who most probably has already been murdered by the repressive Apparatuses of the State. So, it was as if what women who called themselves the 'Mothers' were saying was:  "Our offspring have the right to be alive, their existence must be recognised as part of this land of ours, so that them as well as the islands, could be returned where they belong: to their families, to the native land. Let's have them ALIVE." 10


Soil and blood are the two components from which derives the legal Argentinian nationality; and both in fact were, as will be shown, at the core of the national- populist ideology of Eva María Duarte and Juan Domingo Perón called Justicialismo. Indeed both were, in my opinion, crucial ideological concepts used to co-opt their working-class and low middle class supporters, both of the feminine and the masculine genders.


Women and Colonialism


When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived at the Río de la Plata (River Plate) nearly five hundred years ago, all contemporary moral codes were transferred from Spain to the new colony. Castilian was imposed as the official language, and the Catholic Church consolidated evangelical dominion on the invaded territory with sermons and the tools of the Inquisition. Almost 300 years later, Buenos Aires had become an important commercial centre of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate, and was declared a free port. A group of men of Spanish extraction from the most prosperous families came together as the first non-Spanish government of the country which they called Republica Argentina (Argentine Republic). On 25th May 18l0, women and men from the area of the port gathered in front of the Cabildo/City Town Hall, in the city Plaza de Mayo/ May Square, demanding to know what was going on, while behind closed doors the incipient local bourgeoisie declared the political freedom of the new country from the colonial power of Spain. An excellent example of when the so- called ‘public’ domain becomes rather ‘private’, which gives a kind of intellectual aversion to the use of the private and the public when analyzing reality from a gender, class and race perspective, as I intend to do here.


Some women, from the poorest classes in particular, had distinguished themselves in the fierce street-fighting against the unsuccessful British invasions of Buenos Aires in 1806 and 1807 to take the city: at least this bit was told to us in History classes at primary school. Nevertheless, we were not told that none of even these exceptional women were deemed  worthy of a place on the First Junta of the Argentina Republic; not even the upper class women such as Mariquita Sánchez de Thompson( 1786-1868), in whose salon -we were told- secret meetings were held to plan the new regime.


From the very first day at school, on the contrary, we were told that the British were our main enemy, and that this has helped to create a deep national consciousness in porteños (people from the port of Buenos Aires), men and women. From then on, being 'Argentinean' citizen, we were ideologically armed with the paraphernalia of nationalism: the blue and white flag, the national anthem, martial music, etc; and above all, a map of 'our' country with a clear demarcation of its huge and -so we were repeatedly told- very rich national territory. By contrast, usually printed in wishy-washy colours, were all the potential secondary 'enemies': they were the outsiders, the next-door neighbours: Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The flag, the national anthem, the map, escarapels, el escudo, all of which come under a single word: la Patria/native land, home. The Madre Patria /the Mother Fatherland.


The children being so young, they were not told that patriarca /patriarch means, basically, to be the boss of a family or a community; nor that patriarcado/patriarchy could be the territory over which the patriarch exercises his jurisdiction; or that the term could refer to the social organization characterized by the supremacy of the father or the husband over other members of the tribe.11  


Instead, two phrases were written at the top of the blackboard for the rest of the week:12



(My mother loves me)



(The Falkland Islands are Argentinian)


Children were told that while Spain was losing its colonies, the British Empire waited in the shadows for its turn to take them over. And that in 1835, they appropriated some islands in the South Atlantic: Las Malvinas.  


Argentina, the (feminine) name of the Mother territory, provides then, from the very start of a child's formal education, another sign of a gendered discourse; another example of the need to use gender to understand Women and Nationalism in the Argentine milieu. But there is much more to it. Take the case of Hebe Pastor de Bonafini (1928-  ), one of the leaders of the women's movement for the reappearance (with life) of the disappeared, a typical example of what some Argentinian women identified as a kind of 'sinédocque': the 'plural woman', a name given to group under it those women who are aware that the struggle for justice is permanent and collective, according to María Gabriela Mizraje. She recounts that when she asked Hebe de Bonafini what woman she would select as a role model from among all the Argentinian women, her answer was:


            'Perhaps, the more anonymous, my mother,

            because during all her life she worked and saved'.


Asked to choose one woman 'from those who had been active in public life', always according to Mizraje, Hebe Bonafini choose two:


a) Alicia Moreau de Justo (1885- 1986): doctor in Medicine, politician, feminist, socialist, writer, lecture. A woman born in France, exiled with her parents from the Paris Commune (to London first), an Argentinian who at the beginning of this century declared in Buenos Aires that 'There ought to be a single moral code for both sexes';


b) María Eva Duarte de Perón (1919-1952), the woman who went from one theatre to the other, and in politics chose to work with the trade unions, to organise social assistance, and to be the founder of the Partido Peronista Femenino (Peronist Women's Party) in 1949.


'Hebe es nuestro presente, es una de las del pañuelo blanco desafiante y memorioso cada jueves. Es una que está, que sigue, que invita, que resiste, que llama al futuro'. Speaking more generally, Francine Massiello shows the dramatic example of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo as an inspiration: 'gathering each Thursday afternoon in the huge central plaza of Buenos Aires- a plaza surrounded by nineteenth-century buildings, the national cathedral, and the presidential palace- these women traverse the realm of the monumental to challenge the administration power. Encircling the square, the mothers provided both visual and a symbolic mode of resistance to a regime that 'disappeared' over 15.000 citizens between 1976 and 1983; they entered the space of the plaza at a time when ordinary citizens feared to assemble in public. Their continued protest against subsequent administrations in the years following military rule attests to the ability of these women to sustain a public discussion extending far beyond the conventional limits of partisan politics and ideologies'.13


How could all this political passion be articulated in order to guarantee the existence of a fairer future?


I believe that Argentina provides, from the very beginning of its political independence in 1810, a very interesting case of several post-colonial ideological efforts made by women and men of different social classes, races, and ethnicity in order to fill the vacuum left by the Empire. Women as well as men from that part of our world have contributed in different ways, very distinctly, towards gendered discourses and practices that have helped to shape and justify the existence of what has evolved into the post-Westernised global nation that Argentina is today: a new free port for the entrance of multinational-global capitalism, under the obedient eye of the fifth Peronist administration, led by the peronist Menem; the same civilian President who gave political amnesty to the officers of the Argentinian Armed Forces responsible for the main crimes of the ‘Dirty War’, during the period of the last dictatorship (1976-1983). 


When one is a victim of political exclusion and is confined to live outside 'one's nation', that object of our desire tends to become smaller and smaller, not only in our imagination, but I would say, just on the contrary: in our material existence. That is perhaps why I read with some scepticism that Menem's government has adopted typical policies of State Feminism.14     


Quota for Women.  Argentinian political parties will from now on be obliged to field women as 30 per cent of their candidates for elective post, under a positive discrimination law passed by Congress.15


Women's massive support for any kind of nationalistic ideology, if one strongly believes Virginia Woolf when she said that woman has not country, one belongs to the world- 16 cannot be understood without a theory of gender power, of the kind proposed by Anne McClintock and Catherine Davies, who in her timely and inspiring essay advocates the need for spatial (geographical) and temporal (historical) contextualisations when studying women's national identities; she goes so far as to explore the extent to which the Argentine case shows heterogeneity and multiplicity of women's identities, and some of its limitations. She then poses a very important question: Does the adjective 'Argentinian women'- with their defiant Mothers and Grandmothers - obviate a deconstruction of masculinist hegemonic discourse altogether? Once posed, as she adds, these questions cannot be conveniently forgotten. This paper intends to contribute to that open debate. 17




Contemporary questions on women's involvement in nationalist movements



The resurgence of nationalist movements all over Europe and the former Soviet Union has added new fears to the old ones, which associated women with nazism. In Germany and Italy, for example, says S Leydesdorff, mass movements of women supported fascism, adding that, in Mothers of the Fatherland, Claudia Koonz revealed the cornerstone of women's politics in German fascism. Its importance in Italian fascism was already common knowledge, she concludes. 18 What was at stake here was why the majority of French who lived under the Vichy regime and German occupation, as well as German women living under Hitler regime, participated in or tolerated the atrocities.


The question is pertinent to most Latin American females, who have been generally associated with support for the status quo. I cannot go further into this discussion, to which I have extensively referred to elsewhere. 19 In the blunt generalization which characterised most of the findings of the first essays dealing with the subject of women in Latin American politics- essays which started to appear in the late 70s- Argentinian women used to be taken as an example of being more conservative than their folk-men in politics. Hollander and Chaney are among the female academics who helped to represent Eva Perón as an archetypal example of the conservative political behaviour of Latin America Women. It did not take me totally by surprise, then, when a distinguished historian interested in European women's political activities during the Second World Ware recently suggested the 'similarities' between women supporters of Fascism and Argentinian women who supported Peronism during the 40s and 50s. Briefly, commenting upon the importance of understanding women's support for Perón, she summarised her interest as follows: 'We know a lot about women of the Left, but not about these other women, don't we?20


It has been the privilege of men working on Peronism to be listened to when trying to correct the false assumption so generalised among British and other academics that Perón's government was fascist. A more recent case which comes to mind is provided by Daniel James, who believes that 'Peronism aspired to be a viable hegemonic alternative for Argentine capitalism, as a promoter of economic development based on the social and political integration of the working class'.'In this respect"- he says- "comparison of Peronism with the New Deal policies of Roosevelt, and the development of welfare state capitalism in Western Europe after 1945 clearly have merit, in that they all to varying degrees marked the confirmation of the working class's "economic civil rights", while at the same time confirming, and indeed strengthening, the continued existence of capitalist production relations'. To add: 'At the same time, however, Peronism in an important sense defined itself, and was defined by its working-class constituency, as a movement of political and social opposition, as a denial of the dominant elite's power, symbols and values. It remained, in a fundamental way, a potentially heretical voice, giving expression to the hopes of the oppressed both within the factory and beyond, as a claim for social dignity and equality'.21


Therefore, to answer Catherine Davies's question, even if in some sort of oblique way, I am inclined to use the hegemonic masculinist discourse in Latin American Studies to support my own feminist arguments concerning Latin American populism in general, and Peronism in particular. This is because I cannot agree more with Alistair Hennessy when he affirms '... at first sight it is surprising that in spite of Latin American's turbulent history of dictatorship and authoritarianism, fascist movements did not take root there and that even regimes which have the trappings of fascism such as ...Peron's Argentina cannot easily be fitted into the fascist mould.' He is referring here to a wide range of mass nationalist and reformist movements which are opposed to traditional parties narrowly based on conservative landowning elites.22


The main question remains, though: Why are so many women attracted by nationalist ideologies ? One way of answering this question is by exploring how women become involved in nationalist projects, in relation to state practices. In this respect, and according to Anthias and Yuval-Davies, it is possible to locate five major ways. These are:


            1. as biological reproducers of nationals;

            2. as reproducers of the boundaries of national groups;

            3. as participating centrally in the ideological reproduction of the nation and as transmitters of its culture;

            4. as signifiers of national differences , as a focus and symbol in ideological discourses used in the construction, reproduction and transformation of national categories;

            5. as participants in national, economic, political and military struggles.23


Borrowing from these authors, I believe that much of a national culture is organised around rules related to sexuality, marriage and the family. Women therefore, reproduce not only class, but different ethnic groups contained in the nation.


With the aforestated in mind, and by focusing on the roles of women, I have also been able to recognise at least three different levels which are useful for the present analysis of peronism : the symbolic, the practical or policy level, and the level of agency; to which I am adding the economic level. Closely related to all of these, the Argentinian case confirms most of the arguments of Anthia and Yuval-Davies. For example, the characteristics ascribed to women were also used to foster national interest in Argentina, of which the concept of sacrificial motherhood, a woman caring for and nurturing her children, was placed at the core of nationalist symbolism. At the practical level, policies that were concerned with structuring or restructuring the form of the family which are always central to nationalist political projects were detected. At the level of the agency, peronist and antiperonist women alike could be seen as activists and participants in national struggles, and/or as members of dominant social strata or classes, as exploiters and oppressors of other less privileged women and men. Economically, Argentinian women can be seen as a group stratified by social divisions of gender, class and ethnicity, most of them discriminated against in the labour situation both in the market and at home, in comparison to the male members of their same social stratus. Moreover, I have concluded that the perfect housewife is the best 'natural' complement of a good feminine nationalist mother.


And certainly, as it has been argued by Andrew Parker among others, the idealization of motherhood by the virile fraternity would seem to entail the exclusion of all nonreproductively-oriented sexualities from the discourse of the nation'.24 This was true for Argentina from the very moment of its constitution as a self-recognised and recognisable modern nation (1880s). Lesbianism, seen as the negation of the natural course for a woman (designed by God to be a mother), has always been far less visible than homosexuality in Argentina; extreme form of violence against lesbians in the past were directly correlated to resurgences of nationalist feelings. Lesbian and feminist are interchangeable insults when one is interrogated for political reasons in Argentina.25        


Towards a feminist interpretation of the Peronist phenomenon 


In line with the path suggested by McClintock and Davies, I have tried to re-examine Peronism from the four directions a feminist theory of nationalism might take. I have done this in the following ways: 


            a) by examining the gendered underpinnings of masculinist theories of Peronism (Laclau, De Ipola, James, etc); 

            b) by making Peronist women's political and cultural contribution visible, reconstructing the whole history of the Peronist Women's Party and collecting and analyzing all peronist texts related to women;

            c) by tracing the workings of nationalist institutions in relation to other social institutions and formations; I concentrated on two of the institutions which acted as Ideological Apparatuses of the Peronist State, the modern family and the Foundation Eva Perón; and finally

            d) by qualifying univocal feminist accounts- contemporary or not to Peronism- with attention to class differences; differences of race and ethnicity proved to be too complex and ought to be covered by future research.


The results have already been presented elsewhere, with the exception of the point c)- which I will be dealing with in the rest of this paper.26 Before enter into that discussion, it is worth mentioning that different genders, classes, ethnicities and generations of Argentinian women do not identify with, or experience, the myriad national formations in the same way, and this signals the need for spacial (geographical) and temporal (historical) contextualisations; on this point I agree with the propositions of McClintock, Davies, Parker et al.


This work and this kind of analysis is in my view very important from a pragmatic feminist point of view, as it may help the process of creating political alliances between members of different oppressed groups struggling for practical, short-term interests; and, being crucial for a feminist strategy of power, it might help to sweep away ideological (or imagined?) barriers which divide women, and are created by localism, regionalism, nationalism, imperialism and other (not always imagined) 'isms'. By working politically and philosophically through the implications of the particular, new kinds of solidarities might be forged.27


According to McClintcok, the family or 'domestic genealogies' (motherland, fatherland, homeland, adopted country and so on) are symbolic representations of nationhood. 28  While I agree that the symbolic order of language played a major part in the discursive strategy of Peronism, I have found that the function of the word 'family' did not operate in a vacuum. Just on the contrary, the perception that Peronist women could have had of the symbolic was based in a primary sensation of the material, concrete forms of human existence that these women not only imagined, but really got to know, suffered and /or enjoyed, according to which step on the ladder of the social fabric they were positioned on.


I have tried, therefore, to elucidate the 'family' and its function(s). For the Argentinian women who became subjects of the Peronist discourse, the 'family' was not an imaginary relationship with their household. Rather, the fact of belonging to a family was perceived as part of reality of being involved in a relation. It was not simply an imaginary effect of belonging to a household. Family was not simply a group of two heterosexual adults of opposite sex, and two children (on average), living for most of the year under the same roof as the concept symbolised; for the family was a signifier whose function in the intrasubjective economy of the country guaranteed the expected functioning of the family Nation-State, as signified in the Plan Quinquenal de la Nación (Five Years Plan of the first Peronist administration). Let us examine, then, the effects of the existence and signification of the family in the Argentina of the 40s and 50s.




The political and ideological functions of the term 'family'


In line with his strategy of corporate organisation of the various social sectors that supported him, Perón set about the ' corporatisation ' of members of different genders. In practice, he managed to get Argentine men to accept that they must concede greater political space to women, grant improvements in women's civil status and widen their opportunity to fulfil themselves as individuals, mainly by means of more education. To assuage any fears that they might lose their ancestral privileges, he guaranteed men primacy in pubic administration, the trade unions and the Peronist Party.29


Use of the term 'family' was an extremely important part of this strategy, presupposing as it did the ideological appropriation of the historically constructed collective unconscious. Perón presented the Nation as a family. He crowned the State with a symbolic traditional couple consisting of himself and his wife. Presenting himself as Father of the Nation-Fatherland, he become automatically the supreme head of the National Patriarchal family. In Peronist Argentina the presidential couple occupied the place that Althusser ascribed in France to the religious Holy Family, as we has already seen.30 The rest of the populace, who in their majority supported Perón, imagined themselves to be reflected in the national Mother and Father figures. The organised workers of the Nation were the imagined 'sons' of the Fatherland, as such confused with and assimilated to the Armed Forces, whose members were the strong sons of the Great Argentinian national family. As  members of the most important of all families, in the imagined Great Peronist Family, Perón gave ordinary mortal men (civilian) a weapon of their own: the political wing of the Peronist Party, which dominated the political apparatus of the Peronist government. Women Peronists were in a sense 'daughters' of Perón, and as such were given a subordinated position: they came together under the Partido Peronista Femenino (feminine branch of the Party, subordinated to the political (masculine branch) and trade union sections.


'El pueblo', (the people) one of Peronist main discursive interpellations, were transformed into 'la masa trabajadora' ('the working people)': people, nation and workers become interchangeable, as noticed by D. James.31 However, when Perón addressed the working-class, he didn't appeal to irrational, mystical elements of nationalist ideology, as James correctly said. Working-class nationalism was addressed primarily in terms of concrete economic issues. Perón associated himself with national development, and claimed that his ideology, called Justicialismo, was independent of both forms of imperialism: the capitalist and the communist. In this way, Perón managed to distinguish himself from his political opponents. He associated everything British with imperialist exploitation, with the 'oligarchy'. While the rhetoric of the indivisible national community gave the working-class men and women an implicitly superior role within this whole, the realities of an independent development benefitted working-class women directly. Not surprisingly, when Argentinian women voted for the first time in national election in 1951, the female Peronists were voting against the British and American empires. And they were voting against feminism as well, for it was presented by Eva Perón as the 'ultimately evil' produced mainly by the British.


In short, whereas Evita had a space of her own, there was no space for the Queen of England. Or vice versa, at least in English or Argentinian prevalent nationalism at the time.


It is fair to conclude that Peronism helped to construct a reformist or economicist type of consciousness among its female supporters, just as it did within the labour movement.32 Neither Peronist ideology nor Peronist discourses questioned the existing gender social division of labour and the traditional role of women within that division. This demonstrates, therefore, that as important as the existence of a basically unjust assignment of social tasks and functions is the way in which that assignment is represented ideologically.


In short, Peronism created the new fathers and heads of family and the new housewives required by the new model of capital accumulation pursued. Not surprisingly, membership of a family was, for members of both main genders almost a prerequisite for being a "good Peronist". Furthermore, Peronism reinforced the Catholic dimension of ‘motherhood’.




Restructuring the Family: Organizations and Functions during the Peronist Regime


The object of this part of the paper is to analyze the different functions of the family as an institution and the ways in which this was treated during the Peronist regime. If the family is considered as an institution, it becomes clear that the family system was one of the Ideological Apparatuses to which the Peronist State gave the highest priority, in order to intervene in the lives of family members of both genders. The changes the government made in the functioning of the family of the popular classes were associated by the members of these classes with the substantial benefits they obtained during this period. They were thus crucial in securing the reception of the Peronist discourse by the subor­dinate classes and gender. It is important therefore to determine the specific class and gender character of these government interventions, and to see whether they tended to satisfy the immediate needs of the women affected.


On the other hand, if the word 'family' is considered as one of Perón's favourite interpellation as I do see it, it is possible to find, as we have already seen, another body of ideological functions which was assigned to the 'family' under Peronism. Finally, it is possible to try and vertebrate economical, ideological and political levels in the analysis of the family, and to indicate how this operated to reduce class conflict and to eliminate or at least mitigate potential gender conflicts, something crucial for an ideology of class conciliation and gender complementation of the kind of Populism Peronist; this will address only partially in what follows.


Why was Perón interested in the family of the popular classes?


From the moment he took power Perón took a marked interest in the situation of the family, and this concern was a constant theme throughout the period of his first presidency. I believe that the reasons for this preoccupation were, in the first place, economic, then political, and finally ideologi­cal. I have deliberately separated these three aspects in this way, because the data, as far as it goes, suggests the same order. While we must be careful not to over-simplify, it does appear that Perón's first concern was to raise the standard of living of the popular masses; that he then tried to induce in those masses specific forms of political behaviour; and that in order to do this he applied ideological tactics specifically designed for the purpose.


Perón's cultural 'baggage' on this question was drawn from various different sources: government statistical sources; the opinion of the workers themselves; the debates conducted at the time in a number of publications on the theme of the disintegration of the family; and the periodic public outcries against the falling birth-rate, supposedly caused by women, especially proletarian women, working outside the home.31  As Eva Perón indicates in her autobio­graphy,32  Perón also knew a certain amount about the feminist discourses of Europe at the time, where the position of women and the home was one of the main topics of debate. These feminists discourses, on the other hand, were followed very carefully by different trends of the feminist school of thought of Argentina.


It can also be assumed that in the course of a successful military career, Perón would have gained first-hand knowledge of developments of the 'woman's question' in Spain before the Civil War, and of the positions Franco and Mussolini had adopted on 'the woman problem'. Moreover, he was well informed about events in Chile, where he had served as military attaché, keeping in close contact with the country's internal problems via General Ibañez.33  He must also have known something of the redistributive policies being pursued by Getulio Vargas which had brought some improvements in the situation of Brazilian women.34


On the other hand, as early as October 27 1943, Colonel Perón (as he then was) Colonel Perón paid a visit to one of the departments of the Ministry of Interior, the National Department of Labour, and took charge of it himself. One of the people who accompanied him in his visit, José Figuerola, remarked later on the enormous impact on the military leader of the state of poverty in which large numbers of workers 's families were living. This he had been able to judge from a chart prepared for his visit. Even at this early stage Perón was concerned with the family, the 'nuclear cell' of social life, which he believed to be affected by 'social viruses' which threatened 'civilised life in general', and  economic life in particular, within that biologically inspired concept of 'social order' to which he subscribed. He went on to establish a new post of quasi-ministerial rank,directly linked to the Office of the President. This new service was called the Secretariat of Labour and Welfare, and Perón himself was appointed to the post of Secretary by the de facto President of the day.


A quick glance at the terms of reference of this new state institution supports our hypothesis concerning Perón's early concern to resolve the problems affecting the 'normal' functioning of the working class family. Equally, they are an expression of the ideological 'baggage' which the term family possessed in the collective subconsciousness of the time. With regard to the first point, it was said to be essential 'to remedy the many needs which afflict workers' homes'. As for the second, such assistance should help 'principally in strengthening the Argentine family, the sure base upon which the greatness of our Fatherland is founded'.35


Although Perón officially gave up his position as head of the Secretariat after the government crisis of October 1945, his name remained firmly associated with it in popular memory as a result of the work it accomp­lished during the first three years of its existence.


The needs of the 'masses', according to men


According to Perón himself, his first task on taking over the Department of Labour was to try to understand the opinions of 'the masses'. To that effect, as he explains in his advice on political work:


I began to talk to men, to see how they were thinking, what they felt, what they wanted, and what they didn't want, what they thought of the government, their view of the situation of the country, what aspirations they had, and what complaints about the past... After noting all of this, I drew up my own analysis of the situation, to find what best summed up and encapsulated this process of 'induction' (let us call it) of the masses. I reached my conclusions and incorporated them in my campaign, to convince each and every person who listened to my words of what needed to be done. What was to be done was part of what they wanted, and part of what I wanted myself.36


Perón adds that when Communist leaders came to see him they always included workers in the delegation to prove to him that they had the support of the popular masses. He adds: 'I received them, and made them think that I believed them. But what I wanted to do was to take the masses away from them, and leave them without mass support. That is a natural part of the political game; of course ... this was my job, [to speak], to persuade.'37 The complaints the workers brought to Perón highlighted the following basic problems: their lives depended on the whims of the employers; the numerous pieces of legislation to protect their rights were either never passed, or if they were passed were never implemented; workers' wages were insufficient to guarantee the stability of the family and stability at work; they themselves believed that the best way to resolve these problems was either by going on strike or by reforming the economic system; wages were paid in cash and/or kind, but were in the absence of any system of regulation other than that of the employers, on average enough to meet only 50% of what Figuerola and Perón calculated to be basic, vital necessities of the worker's family, namely housing, food, education for the children, holidays, a working day of limited length, and health.38


Perón therefore undertook to bring 'light into proletarian homes' whose very existence in society was to be divided, according to his own scheme, into two periods, 'Before Perón' and 'Since Perón'.39  In order to do this he had to get rid of the 'communists', not physically, but by stealing some of their demands. In fact he intended to leave the communists, anarchists, socialists and others, among them feminist women, without banners and slogans of their own.



Perón and women's needs


Perón knew from available statistics that the female labour force had increased between 1935 and 1939 by 27.4% and that approximately 33% of the industrial workers of the greater Buenos Aires area were women; that there had been a marked increase in migration of women from the provinces to urban centres, with ever greater numbers of women seeking work for the first time; and that the laws to protect women workers, which had been passed thanks to the efforts of the Socialists, were not being complied with. He was equally aware that a long-standing demand of Argentine feminists of socialist or anarchist persuasion had been equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender. It was widely known in the country at the time that socialist feminists linked the idea of the political emancipa­tion of women to that of the economic independence. They believed that this could be achieved only by the massive incorporation of women into 'industrial production', an idea they had culled from the works of Marx and Engels, among others.40


It is hardly surprising, then, that Perón also appropriated the demands of the various feminists, 'this strange race of women' as he liked to call them, that he used them to further his aim of winning the support of the mass of women. He had to start out by 'isolating' the socialist, communist or anarchist elements from feminist thinking, in order to make the demands of the latter his own. In order to do this, however, he had first to resolve the same problem that he had with the 'communist' men from the popular masses: how to adapt feminist thinking for his own purposes without losing the social subject which it represented, namely women. In other words, he needed to convert the women of the popular classes, whether or not they worked for part of the time outside the home, into subjects of his own embryonic populist ideology.



The Women's Division

Perón's early recognition of the specific needs, aspirations, problems and political potential of the feminine gender is exemplified by his initiative of 1944 to establish a Women's Division within the Secretariat of Labour and Welfare. As was to be expected from the nature of his ideology, this Division ranked lower than and was dependent on the division concerned more specifically with the families of working men. However, these facts, which give substantial backing to our interpretation of Peronism, are commonly explained in a more simplistic manner by the Peronists themselves.41


Thus not only was Perón's name firmly linked in the Peronist discourse with the Secretariat of Labour and Welfare, but also with the Women's Division- as evidence of his concern for women and interest in resolving their specific problems. It is often forgotten that the military government which overthrew Perón in 1955 also took the trouble to set up a government department similar to the one he had originally established, although it never won the confidence and support of women.42


A feminist analysis of Peronism needs to highlight the following:


1. Perón only established the first Division of Women's Labour on October 3 1944, more than a year after he had begun to work on solutions for the problems of families.

2. The very title of this Division illustrates the Peronist position on women's right to work and to equal pay for the word 'Assistance' was added. In other words the government department concerned with female labour was regarded as having the function of providing State assis­tance to women.

3. It is not known who drew up the plans for this Division, or what role, if any, women played in making decisions within it.

4. The mere fact of this Division's existence, however unclear the gender limitations of its decisions, must have helped to feed the common assumption that Perón 'established the basis for women's emancipation', a theme repeated by Eva Perón in her speeches.



The satisfaction of women's pragmatic needs: the details, limitations and implications

Women found their situation changing for the better as a result of two types of policy implemented by Perón, from his position of responsibility for Labour and Social Welfare, for the least economically favoured sectors of the population. These were: measures designed to give greater political and organising powers to the trade unions; and measures to improve the lot of wage earners.


Perón was anxious to encourage workers to join trade unions. He had sufficient room to manoeuvre to be able to make a series of concessions to unions to facilitate their work. At the same time, however, the existence of a relatively homogeneous labour force with a high degree of political class consciousness 43 could have posed a serious problem. In order to circumvent this, he resorted to a variety of tactics: he sent government sequestrators into unions which opposed his policies and encouraged the formation of parallel unions to weaken the existing ones and their leaders, mostly Socialists and Communists. In 1945 he decreed the very controversial Professional Associa­tions Law, Nº23.852, which among other things explicitly recognised the right of trade unions to participate actively in politics. Retirement pay was granted in industries where unions existed, and, where there were none, unions were formed and comprehensive labour agreements signed. With the creation of labour tribunals, labour disputes ceased to be simple questions of public order to be dealt with by the police. The Statute of the Peon, signed in 1944, established a minimum wage, paid holidays and medical care for agricultural workers.44  While this did not itself lead to the trade union organisation of the sector, it was a very important step towards recognition of the status of the agricultural proletariat.


Among the most important measures to improve the conditions under which women worked were the following: the outlawing of piece work throughout industry in 1944; equal pay for equal work in the textile industry (1944); an extension to the association of telecommunications workers of the 1926 job protection legislation (1945); the setting of a minimum wage for women in the food industry, with the stipulation that women could not be paid less than 80% of men's rates for the same job;45  the fixed working day of 8 hours; and the establishment for the first time in Argentine history of minimum wages for women taking in paid work in their own homes. As Hollander comments:


Though the principle of equal wages for equal work was articulated many times by the Perón administration, it is clear that it was never implemented. However, in 1959 the International Labour Organisation asserted that women workers in Argentina earned on average 7-15% less then men, one of the smallest differentials in wages between men and women in the non-socialist world.46


From all of the above, we can deduce first of all that women of the working classes benefitted from a series of policies. These were not always dramatic innovations, but either reinforced previous measures which had been only partially observed, or, where they were new, tended to raise women's standard of living. In the second place, since most of the labour measures were aimed at improving the conditions of industrial workers and the rural proletariat, in both of which sectors men were overwhelmingly the majority, the lion's share of the benefits, both in absolute and relative terms, went to men. Qualitatively, as well, men benefitted more. For while the labour legislation did affect industrial sectors such as food, textiles, and soft drinks, in which a great many women worked, and the government proclaimed that it had legalised equal pay for equal work, in practice this principle was never observed-because of the kind of work women did in these in­dustries, and the lack of any mechanisms to ensure that the legislation was implemented. Despite this, it would be foolish to deny that for both men and women of the classes and strata that benefitted from them, these policies constituted some of the essential conditions for the triumphal success of the Peronist discourse. And there was nothing 'false' or irrational in the behaviour of women who saw their basic needs being attended to.


The situation of the family in early 1946


The commonest notion about the family in Argentina at the time Perón was elected President was that it was 'in crisis'. I will return to this point later. Whatever his view on this supposed 'crisis', Perón had some strong ideas on the subject. The family, he felt, could not be left to fend for itself. To ensure that families, especially the poorest ones, functioned 'normally' was an activity that ought to be under State control. In 1946 there seemed to be three main priorities:

a. to implement a system of social welfare directed and controlled by the State;

b. to find a remedy for the chronic housing shortage which affected vast numbers of the rural and urban population;

c. to provide the 'family man' with sufficient means to live a 'life of dignity'.47


Accordingly, on May 14 1946 Perón launched a Social Welfare programme, which was made the responsibility of the recently formed Ministry of Labour and Welfare. The first task was to implement the embryonic social security system for workers initiated by previous administrations but in practice never operated. Secondly, Perón proposed a radical reform of housing policy. He tried out a new slogan, 'Every worker wants a home' (similar to the Peronist slogan in the countryside: 'The land for those who work it'), and set himself the task of 'helping' workers to 'own their own homes'. Naturally, these homes were to be family homes.


In fact, Perón had already stated in a speech made on August 20 1944, that the 'family home' was a right of every worker in the city or the country­side, since housing should not be a privilege of the man of means, but 'one of the most fundamental rights of the man of the people'.48  The wretched standard of the worker's dwelling of the time was, he believed, the main cause of promis­cuity and other social ills.  Three years later he promised that the State would bear 50% of the cost of the worker's house, as part of a 'moral and corporal medicine for the family man'.49 


As we can see, it is always the 'worker's family' that Perón has in mind, and within that family, first and foremost, the men. It was to the men that he addressed himself in the early days of his government, to ask that, in exchange for the State's undertaking to provide 'a life of dignity for them and their families', they should work harder and raise their productivity. 50  For a working man to lead a life of dignity, according to Perón, he must abandon 'slothfulness and vice' and acquire new 'moral values' and a new per­sonality, with a commitment to self-sacrifice and hard work.51  So far as I have been able to discover, Perón's speeches from 1946 contain no reference to women in general, or to women workers in particular.


That year, a freeze was imposed on both urban and rural rents, a measure that was to be extended throughout Perón's years in government. A very large number of families benefitted, especially the poorest, but it is impossible to quantify exactly the numbers of women and men affected. On February 24 the following year, 1947, a new decree law established what amounted to the 'Rights of the Worker'. The law did not mention the worker's sex. Nevertheless it spoke of the right to provide for one's family as one of the essential rights. Given the general circumstances and customs of the country in those days, it is reasonable to suppose that Perón was thinking first and foremost of the male worker as the provider for each household; the person for whom the State should guarantee a living standard sufficient for him to have a family and maintain it.


Women as such did not benefit directly from government measures of this type, but only via the men of their families. One new Law of 1947 did have a direct impact on them, however. This was the act that gave them the right to participate in politics on an equal footing with men.


Bearing in mind that women made up only about 20% of the paid labour force, we can infer that the measures introduced by Perón in his first two years of government were directly beneficial mainly to men. To the extent, however, that they brought into effect a body of rights for the workers of the city and the countryside which benefitted their families, and they satisfied a large proportion of the most basic needs of the women of those families- wives, partners, daughters, sisters, mothers, etc. Although there is still no adequate measure of the extent of those needs, they must have been by then a source of major concern to Perón and his government team.


A more accurate view of the many problems the Perón government needed to address was provided by the General Census of Population and Housing of 1947. Analysis of population trends and the variations in the demo­graphic components of the 1947 population must have enabled Perón and his advisers to draw up a much more complex and sophisticated set of policies for children, young people, adults and the elderly of both sexes. It would also have helped him begin to differentiate between the problems and social functions of the male and female members of the social classes at which his policies were directed.


It seems appropriate, therefore, to take a brief look at the view of Argentine society which was available to the Peronists at the beginning of 1948. The census of 1947 did not provide all the data essential for a fully reliable analysis, a fact of which Perón was well aware, and which he was at pains to remedy. From now on the personal demands of workers, men or women, for improvements in their living standards would not be channelled solely or even principally through the trade unions. A new government tool was created specifically for this purpose, the Foundation for Aid and Social Assistance, and at the head of it Perón placed a Peronist woman: his wife.


Some characteristics of Argentine society, according to the 1947 Census


Size and gender composition of the population


The fourth national Census, carried out on March 10 1947, showed a total population for Argentina of 15,893,827 persons. More than half of these (8,145,127) were men, in contrast to the situation in European countries at the time. In England in 1951, for example, there were 922 men per 1,000 women; and in France in 1950, 928. In Argentina there were 1,051 men per 1,000 women.52


In the urban population, however, women were the majority in the age groups 10-39 and over-60. Moreover, the male majority varied if the different nationalities were taken into account. Among foreign-born males of working age, the number per 1,000 women varied from 1,066 to 1,587, while among native Argentines the proportion of men to women was virtually the same among all age groups.


By 1930 Argentina had joined Brazil and Mexico as one of the three largest countries of the continent by population size; but there were marked demographic differences from most of the other Latin American countries and from the regional average, partly because of the early urbanisation and 'modernisation' of Argentine society.53  One of the most notable charac­teristics was a pronounced decline in the birth rate, beginning in 1910 and gradually accelerating in subsequent decades. In 1942, according to Germani, the rate was 38.3 per 1,000.54  Wainerman believes that between 1940 and 1945 the rate reached 25.5, its lowest point in the history of the country up to the present day.55 The rate of population growth, 15.1 per cent in 1947, can also be regarded as low.56  Immigration had declined in importance since 1930. There was a brief spurt between 1945 and 1955, but it never attained the levels of the previous influxes.57  In 1947 the Census showed that there were 2,436,000 foreigners resident in the country.


Another difference between Argentina and the other countries of the region was the age structure of the population. The fairly low birth and death rates and the large scale of immigration in the past made for a relatively narrow-based age pyramid, with quite a small proportion of under-15s (31% in 1947) and a growing apex of the ageing (65 and over).58  As a result, the index of potential dependency, which is the ratio between the number of children and old people and the number of potentially active adults upon whom they depend for their subsistence, was relatively low in Argentina in 1947:  about 0.53. The decline in the index of age dependency which had been in progress for several decades, meant that there were increasing numbers of young people available for work. These, however, were probably insufficient, in Germani's view, to satisfy the growing requirements of industrial development, given that industry preferred to recruit younger workers.59  There were two further consequences of this age structure: increased pressure for new housing for the large adult population, and the necessity to make social provision for the growing ranks of the elderly.


Argentina had begun the process of urbanisation at a very early stage, and this had produced internal migration of young people of both sexes from the country to the cities. This in turn had led to a larger number of men of working age than of women in the countryside. Women of all ages, but especially the very young and single, would move to the cities to ensure the means of subsistence for themselves, and often so as to help the households they left behind by sending back periodic contributions from their wages.60  ­Germani believes that the different patterns of incorpor­ation of men and women in economic activity meant that the phenomenon of internal migration led to a change in the occupational structure of the country, and to profound changes in family structure and the relations between family members.


Relations between the genders and the situation of the family in 1947


According to Germani, in 1947 the Argentine family was undergoing transfor­mation from being what he calls the 'traditional family' to its definitive emergence as the 'modern urban' one. The intermediate stage, which he calls 'the family in transition', is a time of instability and crisis for the family, leading to a declining birth-rate, more divorces, inter-generational conflict, a rise in prostitution and numbers of illegitim­ate children, weakening of parental authority, and the tendency for the extended family to be reduced to the nuclear family.61



The marital status of women and men


This is one of the many points which census data generally fails to elucidate, since censuses tend to adopt the sexual-political norms of their times. Hence the census data of 1947 distorts ideologically many of the trends which were then under way in Argentina. Nevertheless it does provide us with a crude indicator of the appearance of new arrange­ments in gender relations. For example, while the 1947 Census contains no mention of the existence of prostitution, let alone the fact that it was increasing,62 it does introduce a new category: that of divorced person. It fails, however, to distinguish between legal and commonlaw marriage, i.e. unions sanctioned by practice and accepted by community opinion, a form of matrimony extremely common in Argentina in the 1940s.


In 1947, according to the Census, 51% of men were single, as opposed to about 43% of women. Comparison with the previous census (1914) shows a decline in the proportion of single, and an increase in the number of married members of both sexes. 48% of women were married, and 45% of men. 9% of women were widows or divorced, while only 4% of men responded by placing themselves in this category.


The increase in the marriage rate is attributed by Germani to the rising standards of living in the years immediately preceding the 1947 Census.63  Age at marriage was also tending to decrease. The marriage rate for women in the Federal Capital especially, increased very substantially between 1936 and 1947 in the age-group 20-30 (by more than 32%).64   It was in urban areas, and in particular in the Federal Capital, that the Census revealed the greatest increase in the numbers of marriages, and also of divorces. While the latter were illegal, they took the form of de facto separations, with women having frequent recourse to the courts to demand alimony for themselves and/or their children.


Family size


The Census instructions as officially used since 1936 laid down that there were two types of family, the 'census family' and the 'natural family'. The first consisted of 'all the members of a household, to wit the members of the natural family, the servants, guests and lodgers'. The 'natural family' in census terms consisted of those persons 'who are related to one another in some way, live together in the same house and consider themselves to be members of a single family unit'. Information for the census was to be supplied by the 'head of the family', defined in turn as the person in charge of the economic support of the family group, or who for any other reason was recognised to be the head.65  The Census takers of 1947 tended to separate and/or differentiate between cohabiting groups who considered themselves to constitute a separate family even though they lived under the same roof, where these were made up of a heterosexual adult couple, irrespective of the degree of kinship with the other adults in the house. Thus in Argentina in 1947 there were 3,417,000 families who made up virtually the entire population. Each 'family' lived in a 'household' which physically occupied 'a house'.


There were other types of grouping not considered to be families, and which were defined as 'communities' (convivencias). These occupied other forms of dwelling generally considered to be 'public' rather than 'private', such as barracks, prisons and hospitals; or 'semi-public' and/or directly 'private', such as convents, hospitals, charity children's homes, orphanages, reform schools for children or women, etc. These 'communities' accounted for about 490,000 persons.


Among other things the Census revealed a trend towards smaller households, partly because of the fall in the number of children, but secondly because of the absolutely independent character of each new marriage, which meant that there had been a fall in the number of relatives of the same or different generations sharing each household. In other words the typical household in Argentina had decreased to the point of being just the adult couple and their unmarried children. Even the drastic shortage of housing had not prevented families from being transformed into what Perón in 1947 perceived as being isolated units, relatively or totally independent of one another. 74% of urban families in 1947 were 'nuclear' in this way.


Socio-economic differences between families


Within the family system there were other differences which helped to make it more heterogeneous. In the first place, rural families on average had more children than urban ones, and in the countryside the extended family still persisted. Equally pronounced were the differences between families of different classes or social strata. To begin with, there was a considerable number of persons of the middle class, and a smaller number also from the working class, living alone. These made up 650,000 'families', and accounted for 5% of the total population of the capital. According to Germani, there was a high suicide rate amongst this group, and similar levels of neuroses and other forms of social maladjustment, indicators of 'anomie' or societal disorganisation.66


Of the working class families consisting of more than one person, about 80% contained children, and the average number of members in each family was between four and five in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area. Excluding persons living alone, in the middle and upper classes, and excepting the families of the aristocracy, only about 67% of married couples had children, and where there were children it was becoming more and more common for there to be only one. It is interesting to note that even where two or three generations were still living together as a family, the traditional family norms of the past were no longer observed.67


In 1947, the 3,386,000 Argentines who had migrated away from the place where their birth was registered, had mostly settled in the Capital (50%) and along the Coastal area (28%). In addition, 83% of the foreign immigrant population was living in Buenos Aires and the surrounding areas.


Well over half the population was living in urban areas, and the advances in communications (radio, telephones, newspapers, etc) and the expansion of the transport network had helped to create what Germani called a 'mass society', in which the rhythms of urban life of the big cities set their seal upon the whole of the rest of the country. This accentuated the mounting confrontation between more traditional attitudes on matters like sex, the authority of one's elders, the illegal mechanisms for distributing inheritance, on the one hand, and the widespread adoption of contraceptive methods, premarital sex, separation, and the struggle of young women for independence from their parents, on the other.68


Some points about women's occupations


According to Hollander, Perón became concerned for women when the 1947 Census figures drew his attention to the high per centage of females in the economically active population.69 While census data provides little reliable information about women's matters, the 1947 Census did contain some interesting points. For instance, its figures provide some insight into the two types of domestic labour, both carried out almost exclusively by women. The first, paid domestic labour (including accommodation, meals and/or a wage), appears in the Census as 'domestic service'. The second, which reaped no direct material reward, appears in the Census under the heading 'house­wives', who are classified as part of the 'Economically Inactive Popula­tion'.


The 1947 Census allocates 3,907,000 persons, essentially women, to the occupational category 'domestic tasks'. These people had no means of their own and did not participate in production, whether they lived in cities or in the countryside.70  From this statistic it can be deduced that 71.1% of women aged 14 and over were basically engaged in the typical work of the housewife and had only the burden of a single 'day's work'. Of course domestic work was organised in different ways, and implied different things depending to a large extent on the social class to which the family belonged.71


Unfortunately, we have no means of knowing what proportion of this mass of housewives belonged to the 'popular classes'. However, we do know that in 1947 these classes made up approximately 59.8% of the total population of the country. If we add to these the lower sector of the middle class made up of office workers and the like, it gives us a rough idea of the enormous numerical importance of housewives belonging to the less privileged classes.


Almost 70% of the 'popular classes' were concentrated in urban areas, where 'domestic service' was in short supply:

As a result of the socio-economic changes and the new oppor­tunities offered in other activities, there were fewer and fewer women willing to work as other people's servants. Servants' work therefore had to be complemented by the work of other women members of the family, especially the mistress of the house. 72 


In the Capital, the proportion of women of 14 years and over whose sole occupation was domestic work was 60.2%. Only 7.9% were in paid domestic service. In addition 4.1% were students, living with their families and helping out with domestic tasks. 5.9% of women over 14 living in the Capital were dressmakers (sewing, knitting, etc), working to order at home while looking after their children.


Work outside 'the home', in industry, commerce and services, occupied 17% of the women over 14. Many of these were undoubtedly responsible for domestic work as well, although unfortunately there are no figures to prove it. The supposition seems reasonable when we consider that the economically active women of the Federal Capital made up some 31.2% of the total economically active female population of over-14s, and an even higher proportion, 46.5%, if we take only the 18-29 age group, which is precisely the age cohort containing the highest marriage rate for women.


Why was Perón interested in the situation of women?


The data for the 1947 census was collected by primary teachers, the vast majority of them women. It was preceded by a massive official publicity campaign, stressing the importance the government attached to discovering the true characteristics of the country's population. In June the same year Perón spoke to the people over a national broadcast network, and summed up the results of the Census as follows:


Sixteen million inhabitants is a very small number for a country as vast as ours, and for the objectives which must be fulfilled. But if we can improve our immigration policy, raise the standard of living of the economically weaker workers and reinforce the moral precepts within our family system, then Argentina should be rapidly able, as rapidly as is presently possible, to attain the number of inhabitants per square kilometre which it should have.73


In order, therefore, to achieve population levels compatible with his Government Five Year Plan, Perón proposed a planned expansion of immigration and efforts to ensure that workers' families fulfilled the targets set by the government. For men, as we have seen, this meant raising their produc­tivity. We may speculate that for women the task was not only to ensure certain minimum standards of health and strength for those at work, both men and women, but to reproduce the labour force by bearing more children.


Given that Perón was above all a pragmatic politician, and that he threw himself into the task of 'dignifying the role of the housewife', it seems fair to speculate that his mention of 'the economically weaker workers' was intended to include housewives as well. After all, he had more than enough economic reasons to justify his interest in the situation and behaviour of women. Women's work was vital to the national economy.


One way of putting into perspective the economic importance of women and the work they carried out within the home, is to rethink the 'rate of depend­ency' measure used by demographic researchers. As Jelin has suggested, an index of 'household dependency' can be created, with which to quantify the numbers dependent on the person who carries out domestic labour.74  Following this line of thought we have carried out the statistical exercise in Table 1.                






The population of Argentina was made up of:

a. Unders 15s


b. Adults aged 15 and over


c. 65 and over


d. TOTAL (a+b+c)



The numbers performing domestic labour were as follows:


e. Domestic tasks only


f. Paid domestic servants



(of whom only 23,397 were men)

g. TOTAL (e+f)



Those in group e received no wages of any kind, while domestic servants (group f), performing one of the lowest status jobs available, were the worst paid workers in the country. If we exclude these two groups from the total, d, we can calculate the number of persons dependent for their survival on domestic labour carried out virtually or entirely unpaid. This gives us the following figures:


h. (d-g) Dependents


i. Coefficient of dependency (h/g)



By contrast, of course, those in group (g) were themselves dependent financially for their subsistence not upon their own labour, but upon the rewards given them by their husbands and/or employers, who made up the sector of the population in waged work who were not themselves engaged in domestic labour. In other words, the 4,307,499 persons responsible for domestic work were dependent upon the 5,033,211 men  and the 857,730 women who defined themselves as part of the economically active population, (of which they represented 80% and 13.7% respectively), less the 400,499 engaged in paid domestic work. The coefficient of their financial dependency was therefore 0.78. This, then, is a measure of the level of dependency of a group made up almost exclusively of women upon 80% of the economically active men. It provides a general measure of the gender dependence of women on men, specifically in the domain of their respective types of traditional gender-based work.


Nevertheless, as we noted above, some 13.7% of the female population were financially 'independent', in the sense that they were part of the economically active population. This figure, however, tells us nothing about their wage levels. What we do know is that they were not even paid the same as men for the same work.


We can draw three conclusions from this exercise.  First, that the women who carried out domestic labour were vital for the functioning of the economy because it was their work which guaranteed the survival of the overwhelming majority of the population. Secondly, given the conditions under which they carried out their domestic work, and their responsibility for children, old people and the 'normal' functioning expected of the family, a range of their practical interests would inevitably have been satisfied by policies drawn up by Perón basically with men in mind. In other words, women benefitted not so much qua women as via their ascribed roles as mothers, wives, servants, daughters, etc; and hence by virtue of their position as members of a 'family', and their vital role within the structure of a household and its strategy for survival. Thirdly, if to the foregoing we add the women who earned their own living and/or contributed to the maintenance of their present household, or their household of origin (in the case of women migrants from the country, for example), we can understand the enormous importance of any effort to ensure better living conditions for the so-called 'economically weaker workers'.


Finally, it remains to be said that the statistics we have analysed conceal a whole range of other aspects. For example, the role of women in the retail trade, family-based workshop industries and in agricultural work. If it were possible to measure these phenomena, which the Census data obscure, they would if anything further reinforce the conclusions we have reached.


How could women's specific needs be measured, and who was to perform this task? To what extent did the embryonic system of social security introduced by the Peronist administration meet the vital needs of these women? Perón might well have asked himself these questions, and there is every reason to think that he did so, considering the measures he later took to ensure, or attempt to ensure, the strengthening of the 'Argentine family'. This task, planned by the State, was entrusted to the women themselves. They were to undertake this work by means of two new activities additional to the burdens they already carried; namely voluntary social work and political activism, revitalised and channelled along general lines laid down by the government plan. 


5. The Foundation for Aid and Social Assistance


In 1946, Perón dissolved the 'Ladies Bountiful' group which had administered the charitable works of the women of the richest and most powerful sectors of the country, and which had refused to follow tradition by inviting the President's wife, Eva Perón, to become their President. In its place he created the material basis for two kinds of phenomenon which were to be crucial for the success of his discourse among women.


The first was the replacement of the notions of charity and philanthropy as remedies for poverty by a new conception of social welfare, copied in a somewhat revised form from those applied in Europe when capital accumulation there reached a new stage.75  In Argentina this new development was placed firmly under the administration and control of the State.


The second aspect of fundamental importance for the effectiveness of the Peronist discourse, was the appointment of a Peronist woman, the President's wife, to take charge of what was from a legal point of view a private institution owning its own resources. In reality, however, this was a new and fully-fledged Ideological State Apparatus, with the additional role of correcting the deficiencies of other state organisations such as the Ministries of Labour, Housing and Health.


The Foundation's Origins


By 1939 the Society of Ladies Bountiful had a vast budget, most of which came from government grants rather than the pockets of the ladies' husbands. It had a large staff, mainly of nurses and teachers, employed in the charity homes it ran. In these the children wore grey overalls, and the inmates of its women's homes had to spend much of their time sewing clothing for members of the oligarchy. At Christmas time these children were sent out onto the streets with their heads shaved to beg for alms. Once a year they were dressed up in uniform and gathered together to receive the blessing of the Catholic Cardinal in the luxurious Colón Theatre in Buenos Aires.76  It was the custom for the First Lady to attend this ceremony, together with the President and some of his ministers.


At one of the first government meetings, the new Senators and Deputies voiced their disapproval of social anachronisms of this sort; and this led to the disbanding of the Society of Ladies Bountiful and the withdrawal of its grant by the government, which took over its activities.


After this, Eva Perón began to distribute clothing and food as part of a government propaganda plan entitled 'The Crusade for Social Aid' (Cruzada de Acción Social María Eva Duarte de Perón). At Christmas, this Crusade distributed cider and cakes (panettoni) to thousands of families, and Eva and Juan Perón laid on a reception for hundreds of old people in their own residence, making them gifts of clothing and food. For  Christmas 1947, 5.000.000 toys were distributed. Eva Perón participated directly in the selection of the kind of toy, working with pedagogical assistants. All these events were extensively publicised in the weekly cinema newsreel 'News Argentina'- produced by the government and widely shown at cinemas throughout the country. Soon Eva Perón, who went to work every day at what used to be the Secretariat, and was now the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, began to receive thousands of letters a day asking for her help. The majority of letters, however, were sent to the Presidential Residence. At the same time a flood of donations from workers began to pour in both to the Ministry and the house. Most consisted of products they themselves made: furniture, sugar, shoes, tinned food or pasta. Eva stored all of these at her house, and helped to pack and distribute them, working late into the night with the help of two men: Perón's secretary and his chauffeur.77


By a decree of the Minister of Economy, in September 1946, an account was opened at the Nation's Bank (Banco de la Nación) to which the different ministries had to contribute in order "to buying clothes, shoes, food, medicines", etc, to be given to the poor.78


By May 1948 Eva's work had grown to such an extent that according to Democracia, the main daily newspaper of the Peronists (and which Eva owned), she was receiving over 12,000 letters per day, and had a substantial budget provided by the Finance Ministry and topped up from the budget surpluses of several other ministries.79




On July 8 1948, a presidential decree signed by the Minister of Justice established the Foundation for Aid and Social Assistance, with full legal powers. Nominally it had a capital of 10,000 pesos, donated by Eva Perón. Under its constitution, it was to remain in perpetuity the private property of its founder, Eva Perón. The constitution also laid down the principal functions of the organisation, as follows:

            a. To provide with monetary assistance, or in kind, furnish with working tools, give scholarships to any person who lacks resources, and requests them, and who, in the Foundation's judgment deserves them;

            b. To build houses for indigent families;

            c. To create and/or build educational establishments, hospitals, homes and/or any other establishments that may best serve the goals of the Foundation;

            d. To construct welfare establishments of any kind which can then be given with or without charge to local, provincial or national authorities;

            e. To contribute to or collaborate with, by any possible means, the creation of work tending to satisfy the basic need for a better life of the less privileged classes.


The scale of the Foundation's activities


By 1950 the Eva Perón Foundation, as it was renamed that year, had accumulated a capital worth US$200 millions at the prevailing rate of exchange. Under its constitution its main task was to satisfy the 'basic needs' of the poorest classes. The priority needs were defined by Eva Perón as those of children, unattached women, families and old people, in that order.80


For orphaned and abandoned children she built homes which she tried to provide with a 'family atmosphere'. Eva built 18 of these homes, which she called 'School-Homes', whit a total capacity of 23,000 children. They were extremely well equipped, and the children, who did not have to wear uniform, received free board, food, clothing and education. These were children who had lived in huts and slept on mud floors. Eva used to take care of every single case, and decide on the spot if the child needed to stay in a School-Home or be returned to the family's home, according to her main biographer, A. Dujovne Ortiz. In two big cities of the interior, Mendoza and Cordoba, she ordered the building of two students' cities. But her greater passions were the Student City of Buenos Aires, which covered 5 city blocks, and the Children's City Amanda Allen, also in Buenos Aires, named after a nurse of the Foundation killed in a plane crash when coming back from the site of an earth-quake in Ecuador.81   


She also set up the Children's Football Championship in 1948. The government had seen this as a means of halting hooliganism, but Eva saw that it had far wider potential. Every hamlet, village or town in every province of the country was supposed to establish its own boys' football team. The Foundation provided all the equipment for free. Every shirt bore the portrait and the name of Evita. The Foundation undertook to monitor the health of the young players, and to discover whether they had any problems at home. Depending on the type of problem, the Foundation would either make a place for the child in one of its homes, or, if there was no maltreatment of the child but the family were in economic difficulties, the Foundation would give the family a new house, fully furnished, with several months' rent already paid for. By 1949, 100.000 children were inscribed.


The Championship was held in the two main stadiums of Buenos Aires. The first year 8,000 prizes were given out, including motorcycles, bicycles, and scholarships to study in technical schools and/or universities. Eva attended every event, and always kicked off the first game while the children chanted: 'To Evita we owe our club, and for that we are grateful to her.' Undoubtedly their mothers shared their feelings of gratitude.


The Foundation also set up canteens in virtually every primary school in the country; Eva called them 'school-children's dining rooms'. The 4,000 dining rooms she established could feed up to 500,000 children, each having the right to a free meal every day including Saturday. In addition, every child attending a state school received a break-time snack of a cup of cocoa and a piece of white bread and butter.  It was free and obligatory (although all the children accepted it gladly), and the girls helped to serve it, aiding a large number of women auxiliaries hired for the purpose by the Ministry of Education. Soon the scheme was extended to most secondary schools also. Women could see that the nutritional needs of their children were being met by this partnership between the Foundation and the government. The Foundation also built new schools, completing 1,000 primary schools in the provinces and handing them over to the government.


In 1949, Eva Perón adopted as her own the current Peronist slogan 'In Peronist Argentina children are the only privileged class'. She had a gigantic adventure playground built near the Federal Capital, and called it 'Children's Paradise'. Thousands of children visited the playground on outings paid for by the Foundation. As well as this, the Foundation built in record time the 'Children's City' in a wealthy neighbourhood of the Capital, as mentioned above. It covered four whole city blocks and was an entire town in miniature, of fabulous opulence, for children from two to seven years. It was formed of small white cottages, each with a red-tiled roof, with gardens with lots of stones, a miniature bank, a chemist's, a bakery, a chapel, a swimming pool, a school, a big circus, and a big dining-room (designed so that the people in charge of the children did not have to crouch) that was supplied by the most expensive establishments in Buenos Aires. The first inhabitants were 155 children specially selected by Eva; she chose some of the most needy cases in the country, from families shown by the reports of the Foundation's social workers to have the worst problems.82


Women on their own were offered lodging in 'Transit Homes'. They were given free accommodation, food, and clothing, and were helped to find employment and permanent housing. They could choose to return to their place of origin or move elsewhere. 10,000 women belonging to families were rehoused in this way, 20,000 more were sent to the provinces with guaranteed jobs and housing, another 18,000 women found work, and at least 8,000 went on to be live-in students at colleges or institutes of education.83  One such home, the 'Hogar de la Empleada',84  was built by Eva Perón in Buenos Aires, with the most luxurious fittings and facilities. Eva used it as her favourite place of relaxation at the end of her extraordinarily long working days.


Eva also helped women living in 'normal' families to obtain what they described to her as their necessities: sewing machines, clothing and toys for their children, jobs for their husbands or for themselves, housing, etc. For the families under her protection she built huge holiday resorts on the Atlantic Coast and in the mountains, in places previously inaccessible to all but the rich. Prices were kept very low, and the resorts had a total capacity of up to 100,000 persons per fortnight.Twenty-nine popular housing estates were built with a total of 29,000 homes for nuclear families. They were well constructed, and the houses could be purchased by their occupants.85


To back up the price-control policies introduced by the government in 1950, the Foundation built a chain of large stores and smaller shops and encouraged trade unions to set up consumer co-operatives in workplaces. Some idea of the number of enterprises established by the Foundation can be gathered from the fact that there were 190 in Buenos Aires alone.  Virtually anything for the home could be bought in these establishments, including hardware such as refrigerators, cookers, radios and even televisions on occasion as well as food, furniture, clothing, toys, children's books produced by the government, etc. Everything was sold at the official price, a matter of considerable importance at a moment when shortages and inflation had touched off a wave of speculation by shopkeepers. The 'Eva Perón Supplies' shops ('Proveedurías Eva Perón'), which from 1950 started selling very cheaply the goods which she had previously handed out free, brought many shopkeepers to the brink of bankruptcy.86


By 1950, the Foundation had 14,000 staff, a large number of them nurses trained in its own Schools of Nursing. There were 6,000 construction workers and 26 priests on the payroll. Eva, who had set out to satisfy the needs of workers' families for health and education, trained many women as nurses and kindergarten teachers. She established only a single kindergarten, but she built 12 hospitals for the poor where treatment was free and the best medical facilities and equipment were provided. These were run by nurses who had been trained to be, in Eva's words, 'her soldiers', a special élite groomed to fulfil the many requirements of the Foundation. Some 1,200 were trained by Eva each year under a system of iron discipline almost military in its rigours. They were forbidden to wear jewellery, and were given an almost mystical sense of their 'fellowship' through Evita.87


In 1948 Eva drew up the 'Rights of Old Age,' which were incorporated into the National Constitution the following year. She used these to argue for the introduction of a system of old-age pensions to cover all old people, and she even introduced a system of retirement pensions for domestic servants, which many housewives applied for, claiming to have been servants.88  The Foundation also built four old people's homes, one of them in a modern villa set in beautiful countryside.The Foundation expropriated a whole estate (estancia) from one of the 200 richest families of the country, Pereyra Iraola, and opened there the Park for Rights of Old Age.   


Evaluation of Perón's policies for women and the family


It is quite impossible to list here each and every policy introduced by Perón and his government to benefit the working classes, and the lack of data makes it even harder to determine the quantity and quality of their impact on women. Nevertheless we will try to complete the account we have given above. At least we now understand why Perón took such an interest in women. The material that follows will show, even more clearly, why women in turn took such an interest in the government headed by General Perón.


In 1949, a body of new rights for the various members of the family was introduced into the National Constitution. This laid down the rights to 'education and culture' for young family members of both sexes, rights which should be guaranteed by the family and 'those institutions which collaborate with it'. Among the new family rights, it was established that married women should have equality with their husbands in the marriage contract, and equal authority over the children. The family itself, states the Peronist Constitution, as the primary and elemental nucleus of society, is the object of the special protection of the State. Nevertheless, in its own constitution, its defence, and in the fulfilment of its own goals, the family is independent of the State.89


The family had the constitutional right to see that 'a strong bond is established between mother and child'. The point of this reform, according to its proposer in the Congress, was to 'safeguard and invigorate the family', ensuring a healthy and disciplined upbringing for the children, starting with a close bond between mother and child during infancy.90  This bond is broken, the legislator added, when the mother goes out to work in a factory, or when young children without sufficient qualifications go out to work. In line with this reasoning, new labour laws were introduced, prohibiting children under 15 from working, extending the period of maternity leave before and after the birth, cutting the working day and establishing an 8-hour maximum day for women.


The same year, 1949, a Law was passed laying down that women working in the textile industry should be paid the same as men for the same work. This benefitted some 15,000 women workers, according to Hollander:91 


Though the principle of equal wages for equal work was articulated many times by the Perón administration, it is clear that it was never implemented. However, in 1959 the International Labour Organisation asserted that women workers in Argentina earned on average seven to fifteen per cent less than men, one of the smallest differentials in wages between men and women in the non-socialist world.92


In short, by 1950 the situation of the women of the 'popular classes' had been considerably improved, as had that of men.



Comparison of the benefits by gender and by class


The differences in health provision for members of the different classes had been all but eliminated.93  By 1949, there were 119 hospitals with a total of 23,395 beds, providing free medical care of the highest and most modern standard. In the health field, then, the greatest benefits were accrued to the popular classes not only because of their greater numbers but because until 1943 they had little access to the private health system and were therefore virtually excluded from care. They also stood to gain from the eradication of endemic diseases such as 'Mal de Chagas',94 tuberculosis and malaria, to which they were more prone because of poverty and/or the geographical locations in which they lived and worked.


The introduction of preventive medicine, the extension of modern standards of hygiene to the factories, and care for infants helped to bring substantial reductions in both adult and infant mortality. This, too, had a greater impact on the popular classes, and within these classes on women even more than men, not other least because women had to care for children, the elderly, and other family members who fell sick.


As we have seen, the Eva Perón Foundation practised positive discrimination in favour of the poorer women and children, and their families, which brought specific benefits not available to the wealthier classes. Women in paid work received a number of direct benefits through their jobs, and their working conditions outside the home were substantially improved, although not as much as those of men.


In housing, the popular classes stood to gain more, but women and men benefitted equally where they were married or living together since Peronism regarded the home as essentially a requirement of the heterosexual nuclear family. The homes of the Foundation, however, were principally of benefit to women and children, especially those from the poorest sectors of the population.


Working class families gained a number of facilities they had never had before: cheap holidays, job security, the family wage (proportional to the number of the head of family's children), an extra annual bonus payable in December, access to modern household labour-saving devices, etc. Taken together these amounted to a substantial improvement in their standard of living. Although the major direct beneficiaries were men  (as men constituted the majority of paid workers), all of these gains were designed to be shared by the man with his family, especially with his wife and younger children. Moreover, the enormous widening of educational opportunity gave a steadily increasing number of women access to new occupations. This in turn led by 1955 to a net increase in the number of women holding senior positions both within and outside the state apparatus.


The pace of change promoted by Perón before 1950 slowed somewhat after that date. Only two further measures directly affected women: the Divorce Law, which affected some 3,000 couples;95 and the legalisation of prostitution, which for a short period eased the arduous lives of women engaged in that trade. Abortion was never on the Peronist agenda, and it continued to be illegal-with the usual consequences for working-class women who were forced to seek back-street terminations.


Up until 1949 the proportion of women in work continued to decline. If Perón aimed by this means to raise the birth-rate, then it appears that he achieved his objective. After 1949, the year when the birth rate touched its lowest point in Argentine history up to the present day, there was a gradual improvement, mainly as a consequence of larger numbers of children being born to women of the popular classes.96


Many names, different roles: Family, Women and the State


At home or at their Party meetings, men and women in their respective positions of dominance and subordination would listen to and obey the speeches and orders given by the Head of the Great Peronist Family and his informal representative, the President's wife. Eva Perón, anointed by her husband as 'Spiritual Head of the Nation' (Jefa Espiritual de La Nación) had to take on a vast range of complex responsibilities, both inside 'Olivos', the Presidential Residence (Casa Presidencial), and outside it.


It is impossible here to mention all of the innumerable roles (and official titles) assigned to Eva Perón: 'Primera dama' (First Lady), as wife of the President; 'la compañera Evita', as Mother of the workers (both men and women) - and a comrade; Eva, sister to Peronist women; loyal wife, 'Dama de la Esperanza' (Lady of Hope); Evita, exemplary daughter of politics - awarded towards the end of her days the Grand Peronist Medal of Honour; 'Guardiana de los humildes' (like Jesus, Guardian of the 'helpless'), in charge of what was to all intents and purposes an unofficial ministry of social security; number two in the discursive representation of the Peronist 'family', but in reality bearing the greater 'family' responsibility for keeping alive the 'Peronist spirit', the 'absolute loyalty' to the government of Perón; guardian by definition of the Justicialist doctrine; symbol of the New Woman in the Argentina of the 1940s: active, responsible, exalted in her multiple roles of wife, mother and worker; lacking formal office, and yet interwoven in all the affairs of a hypertrophied State; symbol and synthesis of the women's emancipation promised by Perón: more responsibilities, and hence more work both outside the house and within it; the recipient of far smaller financial rewards from the State than her husband, who apparently inherited her entire fortune on her death; 'independent' within the confines of a feminine position which was better, but still essentially subordinate to the members of the masculine gender who maintained intact the basis of their reformulated dominance.



The term 'family', as we have seen, was extremely important as an interpella­tion, as well as a way of obscuring the multiple social injustices derived from a hierarchical and authoritarian social institution, capable of long-term survival despite periodic 'reformulations'. As such, the family played a major role in securing the political goals of General Perón.





Several of the Peronist State policies for the family were directed towards women in their reproductive capability-for example: campaigns pro natality; protection for pregnant women; pre and post-delivery care; severe repression of the crime of abortion.97 This is just an example of the pernicious consequences of the branch of nationalism inaugurated by Justicialismo in Argentina. It must come as no surprise to realise that lesbians and homosexuals were persecuted and killed during the early 70s: did the nation-family feel again under threat from minorities of long hear and non-machist phallus, which were stopped in the street and detained? The "Dirty War" was in fact a cleaning operation that started, well before the coup d'etat of 1976, during the third Peronist administration, when, after the death of the caudillo Juan Perón, his widow and third wife, Isabel Martínez de Perón, was in office. One of her first policies aimed towards the family was to ban the selling of contraceptives, till then bought over the counter in the chemists. As a result, during the 1980s more than 300.000 clandestine abortions per year were carried out each year.


From 1890 on, the modern Argentine nation wanted to redesign the class and gender privileges of the dominant section of the population regulating their sexuality 98. This Nation has been busy thereafter producing a profusion of femininities and masculinities, according with the economic and ideological needs of the times.


Some of them appeared to be more appealing to women of the working-classes than others: For example, the one inaugurated by Eva Duarte de Perón: a new femininity which helped the Peronist State to lead four million of them to the polling booths in order to guarantee a second term in office to the very 'macho', middle-aged General Perón. Evita, more than 25 years his junior, immolated herself in the event through exhaustion, dying as soon as she saw her rather weak man retain the nation's power: the dominant classes saw in her just a prostitute, while the poor venerated her sanctity from then on.


No doubt Menem acted rationally when he launched his campaign for re-election in May 1995 using Evita as a symbol. At a mass rally which featured laser displays, fireworks and immense images of the 'legendary Argentinian heroine Eva Perón', the Neo-Peronist President claimed credit for transforming Argentina 'into a serious, credible and trustworthy nation'.


The neo-conservative imagined a newly- gendered Argentina when he said in Mar del Plata: 'I have no doubts that the coming years too will be years of growth and development'; and he urged:


"Brothers and sisters

let's win, let's win, let's win".


Was he playing the traditional game of power between the macho caudillo and the people? Another case of populist masquerade? Rather, I think, a question of life and death for the 17 per cent of the population that is unemployed, and who are paying the highest price for the so-called neo-liberal revolution. Menem was re-elected: the first Argentinian since Perón to enjoy a second term. Evita was used as being on his side.


In a country where women are very proud of being traditional housewives, (even when most of them do not understand what it means to be the creators of 33% of the country's Gross Domestic Product), where their leaders work in offices adorned with portraits of Evita and huge maps of Argentina, the dominance of the machistas neo-caudillos is understandable. Less so, though, is the success of diverse nationalist ideologies which have managed to convince women and men alike that 'feminists' are the source of most evils-including the AIDs virus. 99


Eva Perón was strongly against the feminist ideas of her time.

Hebe de Bonafini thinks the Mothers are not feminists: "This society is very machist," but even so she adds "feminists are very radical",100 something which could help to prove the pervasive link between Nationalism, State and the continuation of women’s subordination in Argentina.  



* Acknowledgment:


The first version of this paper was delivered to the Culture and Colonialism Conference, University College Galway, Ireland, 22-24 June 1995, with the financial support of a small grant from the British Academy. It was exceptionally well received by an extraordinarily good audience, both in terms of quantity (with equal numbers of men and women), and quality of discussion. To all them, Dr Marion Muller in particular, and to all the participants at the seminar at Carleton University, my warmest thanks for their comments and encouragement. Very special thanks for their critical ideas to my daughter Yanina Hinrichsen and my son Tomás Hinrichsen; without their help, enthusiasm and support this paper would have never materialised.  





1. Rae Lesser Blumberg (ed), Gender, Family, and Economy. The Triple Overlap, (SAGE Publications, Newbury Park, London, New Delhi: 1991). Sonia Alvarez, Engendering Democracy in Brazil, (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press: 1990). Sarah Radcliffe & Sallie Westwood (ed), 'VIVA': Women and Popular Protest in Latin America, (Routledge, London, 1993). M Molyneux,'Mobilisation without emancipation? Women's Interests, the  State and Revolution in Nicaragua', in Feminist Studies 11(2): 1985,227-54. Jacques Donzelot, La policía de la familia, (Pre-Textos, Valencia: 1979). I. Wallerstein and J. Smith, 'Households as an Institution of the World -Economy', Blumberg (ed), Ibidem, 1991, 234, 241 and 238-239.   

2. We assume that 'most individuals live on a daily basis within a household, which is what we call the entity responsible for our basic and continuing reproduction needs (food, shelter, clothing ), and this household puts together a number of different kinds of income in order to provide for these reproduction needs.' There is a distinction between households and families. 'The former refers to that grouping that assures some level of pooling  income and sharing resources over time so as to reproduce the unit. Often the members of a household are biologically related and share a common residence, but sometimes they do not'. I Wallerstein and J Smith, ibidem, 228.

3. Interpellation is used here in a slightly different way than when it first appeared in Luis Althusser, Lenin, Philosophy and Other Essays, New Left Books, London, 1971. For further discussion, see M Zabaleta, On the Process of Construction of a Feminine Social Consciousness, The Argentine case (1943-1955), Unpublished  D Phil Thesis (Sussex University,Falmer, 1989), Chapter One. 

4. Marta Zabaleta, The Peronist Women's Party: its History, Characteristics and Consequences. (Argentina 1947-1955), paper first delivered at the Tenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, June 1996; Ideology and Populism in Latin America : A Gendered Overview,in Will Fowler (ed) Ideologues and Ideologies in Latin America, (Greenwood, Connecticut and London,1997), 65-82; On the Process of Construction of Female Social Consciousness, Unpublished D Phil Thesis, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University, Falmer,1989, Chapters 3, 4 and 5; "We women are the actors in the drama of our times": An analysis of the speeches of Eva Perón" in  Mary Bucholtz et al (eds) Cultural Performances, Berkeley (Women and Language Group, University of California, Berkeley, California: 1995, 787-800.

5. The Guardian, London, 21-06-95.

6. See Marta Zabaleta The Mothers do not Disappear, The Guardian, Third World Review, (London, 20 August 1982).

7. To contextualise geopolitically, extreme cases of frustrated drives can be found in recent Latin America history. General Pinochet trying to recovery the 'lost paradise' imagined by the Chicago School, (Chile, 1973), and General Videla (Argentina, 1976) competing in the international market for the same national receipt, are good examples. The respective political 'orgasms' are well-documented: at least 2.500 citizens tortured to death in Chile and more than 30.000 in Argentina; and finally, the national war against the foreign Other: the recovery of the Malvinas, on April 2, 1982, by General Menéndez with the consent of Junta (General Galtieri, etc.) A final act of political- and criminal- impotence, made more painful because the counterpart was only a kind of 'mari-macho'. (Name given to Mrs Thatcher by the first 'tachero' that I encountered in Buenos Aires during my brief visit after the demise of the dictatorship to see my dying father for the last time, Rosario, 16 June 1984. I left Argentina with my family and against my will on 15 November 1976, to live as exiled in the UK).       

8. The line of argument used here borrows heavily on J. Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose (eds), Feminine Sexuality, Jacques Lacan & the Ecole Freudienne, (MacMillan,London:1985). It has been further stimulated by the very inspiring essay by Alberto Mira Nouselles, Heridos en lo más íntimo: fracturas de la masculinidad en la narrativa latinoamericana, unpublished paper, as well as Emile Bergman & Paul Smith (eds), ¿Entiendes? Queer Readings, Hispanic Writings, ( Duke University Press, 1995).

9. This idea of the Holy family differs form the original concept of Althusser, in the sense that it does not automatically assume that the structure of every ideology is specular; but I agree with this author in that as every ideology is centred, the Absolute Subject occupies the Center and -as everything happens in the family ( The Holy family: for every family is essentially sacred) God (Perón) will recognise his people, etc. 

10. Excellent material exist on the subject of motherhood in Argentina, to which we can not devote ourselves in this paper.

11. Ramón García Pelayo, Diccionario manual de la lengua española, Larousse Planeta, (Barcelona, 1992),675.

12. At least, this is what has happened to the  members of the last four generations of the paternal side of the author's family, arrived from Guipuzcoa and Navarra. María Eva Ibarguren ( Eva Perón) was a descendent of Basque immigrants, as was Juan Perón. 

13. 'Hebe is our present, she is one of those who every Thursday wears the white handkerchief of challenge and remembrance. She is one who is, who goes on, who invites, resists, one who calls to the future'. María Gabriela Mizraje, Mujeres, Imágenes argentinas, (Ediciones Instituto Movilizador de Fondos Cooperativos: Buenos Aires,1993),20. Francine Masiello, Between Civilization and Barbarism. Women, Nation, and Literacy Culture in Modern Argentina, (University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln & London:1992).

14. For the use of the concept, see D MacBride-Stepson and M. Massur, Comparative State Feminism, (SAGE, London, 1995).  

15. The Guardian, London, 9-11-91.

16. Country could be seen by women as resuscitated spaces, a return to the fountains; to the most ancient structures of the psyche: house, garden, nation. As for example, when Antoinette (Rhys, 519) negates herself, inquiring of her being: 'I often wonder who I am and where in my country and where do I belong and why I was ever born at all', quoted by Ileana Rodríguez in her fascinating Space, Gender, and Ethnicity in Post-Colonial Latin American Literatures by Women, Duke University press, Durham and London: 1994), 1996-7.   

17. A. McClintock, Family feuds: gender, nationalism and the family in Feminist Review 44 (London, 1993), 61-80. Catherine Davies, Women and the Redefinition of Argentinian Nationhood in Bulletin of Latin American Research Vol 12 No 3, (Pergamon Press, Oxford: 1993), 333-342.

18. Selma Leydesforff, Feminisms and Nazism, Conference Report in The European Journal of Women's Studies, Vol 1, Issue 1 18.(SAGE Publications, London: 1994), 115.

19. Marta Zabaleta. See for example: ‘Ideology and Populism in Latin America; A Gendered Overview’ ,in Will Fowler (ed) Ideologues and Ideologies (Greenwood, Westport: 1997); Requiem para una historia sin géneros: el caso de los estudios sobre la mujer latinoamericana, in Manuel Alcantara(ed), Latin America: Realidades y Perspectivas, (Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca: forthcoming), 1997.

20. Interview with J.G. of Middlesex University Press, London, May 1994.

21. Daniel James, Resistance and Integration,Peronism and the Argentine working class, 1946-1976, (Cambridge University Press, New York:1993); 39. Emphasis added, MZ. 

22. Alister Hennessy, Fascism and Populism in Latin America, in Lacquer Walter (ed) Fascism: A Reader's Guide, (Scalar Press, 1991), 255.

23. Floya Anthias and Nira Yuval-Davis, Racialized boundaries, (Routledge,London:1993), 114-115.

24. Andrew Parker et al. (eds), Nationalisms & Sexualities, (Routledege, New York and London, 1992.

25. For further details, see  Cristina, ‘Esto para mí es definitivo’, in Juanita Ramos (ed), Compañeras: Latina Lesbians (An Anthology), (Latin Lesbian History Project, New York City,1987), 223-224.

26. For details of my work, see Zabaleta 1989, 1994, 1997; for examples of alternative masculinist interpretations of Peronism see Emilio De Ipola, Ideología y discurso populista, (Folios Ediciones, México: 1982); Ernesto Laclau, Política e ideología en la teoría marxista, (Siglo XXI, Madrid), 1978; Daniel James, Ob Cit, (1993).  

27. A Parker et al., Nationalisms & Sexualities, (1992), Introduction. For the possibilities of anti-essentialism see also Diana Fuss, Essentially Speaking: Feminism, Nature and Difference (Routledge: New York: 1989).

28. A. McClintock, Family Feuds: Gender, Nationalism and the Family, in Feminist Review 44:61-80, 1992; F. Anthias and N. Yuval-Davis, Women, Nation, State, (Macmillan,London,19890; Catherine Davies, Women and a Redefinition of Argentinian Nationhood,in Bulletin of Latin American Research, 12:3 (1993).

29. See Zabaleta, On the Process, 1989, Chapter 5; also Caro Nancy Hollander, 1974, 1977 and undated, mentioned bellow.

30. Luis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes Towards an Investigation,in Lenin and Philosophy, 1971, 121-173.  

31. Daniel James, ob cit, (1993), 22.

32. This article is part of a wider effort towards a general theory of gender subordination which takes into account both its embeddedness in, and its autonomy from, economic and social structures. In common with Kate Young et al., I have tried to address a feminism which is international in spirit, but does not deny the importance of the specific struggles that different women are fighting. For further details, as well as for the concept of gender relations and female gender subordination used here, see Kate Young et al., Of Marriage and the Market, Women's Subordination in International perspective and its Lessons,  (Routledge, London & New York, 1991), Introduction. 

31. As we will return later to a more detailed discussion of these points, it seemed unnecessary to give the full bibliographic references here.

32. Eva Perón frequently mentions the lectures her husband used to give her on the subject of feminism. See, for example, E. Perón , La razón de mi vida ( Peuser, Buenos Aires, 1951), 266-7, & 273.  Briefly, she says that Perón used to explain how every day, egged on by 'feminism', women were abandoning their homes and going out to take men's places. The greatest contradiction, he claimed, was between the sacred mission and place of women, to be in the home, and the jobs they were taking in the factories. See E.Perón (1951), 273-6.

33. There was a debate going on in Chile at the time about women's suffrage, which was finally granted in 1947.

34. According to Hollander, Juan Perón was aware of discussions about women's rights going on at the time in Europe, the USA and other Latin American countries. Also, apparently, a number of Socialist Party members used to discuss with him the problems of women workers. See N.Hollander (undated), 4-5 & footnote 2.

35. Decree Nº 15.074, Annals of the Legislation of Argentina, Decrees, Volume III, 1943, pp.459-461; quoted in A.Ciria Peronism and Political structures, 1945-1955  in New Perspectives on Modern Argentina, Latin American Studies Working Paper (Indiana University , 1972), 32.

36. J.D.Perón, Conducción Política, (Editorial Freeland, Buenos Aires, 1971) in C.Abeijón & J.Lafauci (1975), p.80 (emphasis mine -M.Z.)

37. J.D. Perón, Conducción Política, (Editorial Freeland, Buenos Aires, 1971) in C.Abeijón & J.Lafauci (1975), p.81

38. In Perón, Cuatro Años de Gobierno, Subsecretaría de Informaciones de la Presidencia de la Nación, Buenos Aires, 1950, p.44.

39. In Perón, Cuatro Años de Gobierno, Subsecretaría de Informaciones de la Presidencia de la Nación, Buenos Aires, 1950, p.44 (emphasis mine -M.Z.)

40. For examples of the foregoing, see N.C.Hollander (1974) & (1977); M.C.Feijoo, Las luchas feministas  in Todo es historia, 1978,(Buenos Aires, pp 6-23 ; C.Abeijón & J.Lafauci, La mujer argentina antes y después de Eva Perón ( Cuarto Mundo, Buenos Aires: 1975)

41. J.D.Perón ibidem (1950).

42. C.Abeijón & J.Lafauci, La mujer argentina (1975).

43. J.C.Torre, El movimiento sindical en la Argentina, (undated).

44. N.Fraser & M.Navarro, Eva Perón, ( André Deutch, 1980), 40.

45. ‘While not implementing the important principle of equal pay for equal work, the measure nevertheless improved the traditional situation in which women were generally paid 40% of what male workers earned in that [food] industry.' C.Hollander, 'Si Evita viviera...(1974), 45-6.

46. C. Hollander, Women workers (1977), 187.

47. ‘Una vida digna'. The word means worthy, worthwhile, upright, honest, decent, etc. Perón also used the slogan 'Evita dignifica'.

48. J.D.Perón, speech of August 20 1944, quoted in J.D.Perón, Habla Perón. Recopilación de los discursos oficiales, (Buenos Aires, 1949), p.123.

49. J.D.Perón, speech of October 2 1946, quoted in J.D.Perón (1949), p.124. Note how Perón describes 'decent' family life as a 'social medicine'.

50. J.D.Perón, speech of June 1946, quoted in J.D.Perón Habla Perón (1949), p.132.

51. J.D.Perón ibidem, (1949), p.184.

52. Data taken from G.Germani, Estructura social en la Argentina, (Editorial Raigal, Buenos Aires:1955), 35,39.

53. Lattes, La participación económica femenina en la Argentina desde la Segunda Postguerra hasta 1970. (Centro de Estudios de Población, Buenos  Aires:1980). 53. 53.

54. G.Germani, Estructura Social (1955), 92.

55.C.Wainerman, La mujer y el trabajo en la Argentina desde la perspectiva de la Iglesia Católica,(CENEP, Buenos Aires:1980), 2.

56. G.Germani, Estructura (1955), 92.

57. Z.Recchini, La participación económica, (1980), 4.

58. Z.Recchini, Ibidem, (1980).

59. G.Germani, Estructura Social (1955), p.31.

60. G.Germani, Ibidem,  (1955).

61. G.Germani, Politica y sociedad, (1968).

62. G.Germani, Ibidem, (1968).

63. G.Germani, Estructura Social, (1955), 41, 54.

64. G.Germani, Ibidem, (1955), pp.42-3.

65. Definitions taken from G.Germani (1955), pp.54-5. Note that the definition refers to the head of family as 'el jefe de familia', and does not use the grammar feminine gender form (la jefa) although both forms exist in the language.

66. G.Germani (1955), p.50

67. G.Germani (1955), p.53

68. G.Germani, Estructura social, (1955); Política y sociedad en una época de transición (Paidós, Buenos Aires:1968); C.G.Taylor, Rural life in Argentina,(Louisiana State University Press,baton Rouge:1948).

69. According to Hollander, women made up 28% of wage earners in the country. Women workers, (1977, p.183).

70. G.Germani, Estructura social, (1955), 124.

71. R.Rapp, ‘Family and Class in Contemporary America: Notes Towards an Understanding of Ideology’ in Science and Society ( New York,1979) has shown the different functions of the housewife according to social class. The principal function of concern to us is that of undertaking those domestic tasks required for the daily maintenance of the adult members and the socialisation and care of the children of the household. A more detailed account can be found in E.Jelin & M.C.Feijoo, ‘Trabajo y familia en el ciclo femenino: el caso de los sectores populares de Buenos Aires’ , in Estudios CEDES, Vol 3 No 8/9 (Centro de Estudios de Estado y Sociedad, Buenos Aires, 1980), where there is an analysis of the case of women from the popular sectors of Buenos Aires.

72. G.Germani (1955),125.

73. J D Perón, Discursos,(1949), 106 ( emphasis mine-M.Z.).

74. E.Jelin (1978), 12.

75. J.Donzelot, The poverty of Political Culture, in Ideology & Consciousness No 5, Spring 1979, 73-86

76. N.Fraser & M.Navarro, Eva Perón,( André Deutsch, 1980), 114-5.

77. N.Fraser & M.Navarro, Ibidem, (1980), 116-7.

78. Alicia Dujovne Ortiz, EVA PERON: La biografía,( Aguilar, Buenos Aires:1995), 224.

79. N.Fraser & M.Navarro (1980), pp.117

80. E.Perón, La razón de mi vida, (Peuser, Buenos Aires:1951).

81. A. Dujovne Ortiz, EVA PERON,225.

82. N.Fraser & M.Navarro,Ob cit. (1980), 130.

83. P.S.Martínez, La Nueva Argentina 1946-1955, Vol 2 (Ediciones Astrea, Buenos Aires: 1976), 99.

84. Empleada' means female white-collar office or shop-worker.

85. G.Blanksten, Perón's Argentina, (Russell and Russell, New York:1967), 108.

86. G.Blanksten, Ib., (1967), 108.

87. Teresa Fiora, Director of the School of Nursing, interviewed by N.Fraser & M.Navarro, Eva Perón, (1980), 129.

88. Teresa Bocia de Achaga, aged 82, middle class housewife, interviewed by the author in Rosario, Argentina on June 15 1984.

89. C.Abeijón & J.Lafauci, La mujer argentina, (1975), 161.

90. P.S.Martínez, La Nueva Argentina, (1976), 132-3.

91. C.Hollander, Si Evita viviera, (1974), 46.

92. C.Hollander, Women Workers (1977), 187.

93. N.Fraser & M.Navarro, Ibidem, (1980).

94. Insect-borne disease previously endemic in parts of Argentina but virtually eradicated by improvements in health care and preventive medicine during the Peronist period. It caused severe chronic anaemia, and in women was a cause of sterility.

95. The relatively small number is explained by the fact that the law was in effect for only a few months in 1955 before being repealed by the military government that replaced Perón.

96. G. Germani in Estructura social, (1955) & Politica y sociedad (1968), gives the respective figures.

97. Susana Bianchi, Las mujeres en el peronismo (Argentina 1945-1955), in G Duby and M Perrot, Historia de la mujeres en Occidente, (Taurus, Madrid 1993), 707.

98. See the excellent work of Jorge Salessi, The Argentine Dissemination of Homosexuality, 1880-1914 in  E Bergman & P Smith (ed) ¿Entiendes?, (Duke University Press, Durham and London, 1995,49-92.)

99. News in Brief, The Guardian reporting the International Congress of Housewives, Buenos Aires, 1996.

100. Jo Fisher, Out of the Shadows: Women, Resistence and Politics in South America, (LAB; London, 1993).


Paper presented at The Third Carleton Conference on the History of the Family,

Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, 15-17 May 1997


Dra. Marta Raquel Zabaleta© Londres, 1997

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