The political power and personal charisma of Eva Perón continue to exert an extraordinary fascination on scholars of several disciplines. This most recent study of her personality constitutes a departure from previous ones, in that it is the work of a woman anthropologist who set out to find the roots of the myths surrounding Eva’s figure. Taylor starts her work with a general analysis of the concept and practice of power of women in society. She continues by providing a historical account of Argentinian history and a biography of Eva, both done as a necessary backdrop to the rest of the book, which “leaves this sort of fact behind and tells of mythic images” (p. 9). The myths are commonly held but divergent beliefs, reinforced by propaganda, about Eva’s character and behavior. The three main myths explored are those of the Lady of Hope, the Black Myth or bad lady, and the Revolutionary Eva. That of the Lady of Hope stresses the purity of the leader seen in maternal and wifely roles. In the Black Myth, Eva Perón uses the powers of her sex to dominate others instead of protecting them. Eva the Revolutionary, a myth developed in the late sixties and early seventies, represents the revolt of the oppressed against the oppressors. The Lady of Hope and the Revolutionary myths were supposed to emanate from the working class, who idolized Eva, but Taylor argues that they are a middle-class interpretation of how the working class felt about her. There is also a chapter devoted to the study of the role of the masses in Argentinian politics, in view of Eva’s close attachment to the masses, a term that, incidentally, is used without adequate definition. The nuances of the three myths suggest that, despite the power she wielded, Eva was always regarded as a companion, an ally, or a product of her husband.

The purely historical sections of this intriguing work show little new about Eva. Although the decidedly anthropological character and methodology of this work and the repetition of many concepts may frustrate some historians, the study of what Eva meant for different people is a useful tool for learning about the values and attitudes of several sectors of Argentinian society throughout the Perón and post-Perón periods. Furthermore, this is one of the few available studies of the concept of female political power perceived not as a sociohistorical issue, but as a symbol with deep emotional appeal. Other works have focused on women in politics. This is a study of the image of the woman as a politician. The mystery of Eva’s charisma is not resolved by Taylor, who concerns herself with presenting the complexity of Eva’s appeal, but the innovative character of this study recommends it as a desirable complement to existing economic and political analyses of this contradictory and influential woman.