It was 87 years ago today…


Paulina Luisi, Uruguay’s first woman doctor, and prominent campaigner for women’s rights — especially the right to vote.

I don’t usually do “This Day in History” pieces, but I’ll make an exception for this one just because it’s so interesting:

The first time a woman was able to vote in Latin America was 87 years ago in Uruguay, according to the Secretariat of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic.

The historic event took place on July 3, 1927, in the central locality of Cerro Chato, whose administration is shared by three Uruguayan departments: Durazno, Florida, and Treinta y Tres.

On that occasion, a plebiscite was held to define which department the locality belonged to, and it was then that the first female vote was cast, by a Brazilian named Rita Ribera, 90 years of age.

The event took place several years before women were first able to vote in the national elections of Uruguay, in 1938.

This year, the Secretariat of Human Rights will commemorate the event on the International Day of Human Rights, on December 10, in Cerro Chato, which currently has a population of 3,700.

The Secretariat, which considers that vote to be a fundamental event for women’s rights, also honors the women teachers who supported school reforms in 1875, describing them as pioneers in the defence of women’s rights in Uruguay.

It was also announced that schoolteacher María Abella founded the Uruguayan sector of the Pan-American Women’s Federation in Montevideo in 1911, and that the first National Women’s Council was founded by teacher and physician Paulina Luisi, in 1916.

Translation mine.

So, the first woman to vote in Uruguay was a 90-year-old Brazilian, of all people. And this more than a decade before the female vote became official for Uruguay in 1938! One wonders how she managed to pull it off. I’m guessing that legal enforcement of institutional sexism in such a small locality wasn’t very strict. Or maybe no one had the heart to bar a little old lady of 90, so they just waved her on through. Or maybe they figured that since there was nothing about women voting on the local books, there must be no reason to forbid it, either. There is so much about this historic vote that I would love to learn. I hope it hasn’t all been lost to the ravages of time!

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