The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
A Voice for Women
Adela Zamudio, the preeminent female literary figure in Bolivian history, was born in Cochabamba to an upper-class family in 1854. Beginning in the 1880s, in the aftermath of the War of the Pacific, she became an active educator, writer, and public advocate for women and children. She composed her poem “To Be Born a Man,” with its hard-hitting, mocking lines about gender discrimination, early in her writing career. Her epistolary novel Íntimas (Close Friends, 1913), written in a Romantic literary style that diverged from both the realist and modernist genres of the day, was a “novel about women for women,” she said. She protested the limits placed on young women’s educational possibilities and advocated for civil marriage and divorce. Against what she called “patriarchal primitivism,” she stood for women’s equality before the law and in the home. Zamudio engaged in a polemic with the Church over secular education, and one scandalous poem (“Quo Vadis”) denounced religious corruption and cruelty. For her outspoken public views, she came under fire from conservatives who accused her of atheism and anarchism. She died in 1928, just as the first generation of Bolivian feminists was gaining public visibility.
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