Right-wing nationalist groups have long fascinated scholars and observers of twentieth-century Argentina. Yet the Liga Patriótica Argentina, once described as “the most powerful political association in the country” between 1919 and 1922, has not received the attention that its size and influence warrant.2 The Liga’s campaign against workers in the post-World War I years merits study not only because it weakened the labor movement, but also because it foreshadowed the antileftist tendencies of future nationalistic leaders, including Juan Domingo Perón. Another important reason for examining the Liga is that it does not fit the image of the Argentine right that historians have created. According to most of the literature, the right wing has consisted exclusively of men; and it has devoted itself to ideological formulations, political maneuvers, and, on occasion, violence. The Liga engaged in these activities, but it also recruited women, whose membership broadened the focus of the organization. Scholars have ignored this female component, rendering it invisible.3

Although researchers have begun to look at women’s rightist activity in Latin America, thus far they have not examined male and female contributions to the same movements in a single comparative framework.4 Yet this kind of study can yield fresh insights into the nature of right-wing organizations and the relationships among gender roles, class, and forms of political participation. This approach can also be valuable historiographically, for it would constitute a step toward a universal history incorporating both sexes.5

In this article, I will use this approach in analyzing the Liga’s origins and roles. Comparison of male and female Liguistas’ social backgrounds, motives for affiliations, recruitment, methods of organization, and actions reveals that the participation of both sexes was vital for the fulfillment of the Ligas aims. It also demonstrates that the sexual division of labor within the Liga resembled that which characterized the upper sectors of the larger society, where women served as nurturers and housekeepers while men were responsible for public activities.6 Ironically, despite their domestic role and their future historical obscurity, Liga women gained a degree of public exposure, which male leaders encouraged for their own ends. Thus, the female members of a politically and socially conservative organization sometimes overstepped the boundaries of their usual sphere of activity.

The Origins of the Liga

The roots of the Liga lay in the social tensions generated by the full-scale integration of Argentina into the international economy after 1870. Between this date and World War I, Argentina became one of the world’s great exporters of corn, wheat, wool, and beef. The production of these and other raw materials led to the creation of processing industries in the capital and surrounding areas. The years 1895 to 1913 witnessed the doubling of industrial enterprises and a fivefold increase in capital investment in Buenos Aires. Mass immigration from Europe helped stimulate economic development. Largely as a result of this influx, the national population tripled between 1870 and 1910. By 1914 foreigners composed almost one-third of all inhabitants, two-thirds of the skilled and white-collar workers in the capital, and more than 80 percent of the unskilled laborers in that city.7

The immigrant labor movement posed a threat to the social hierarchy presided over by the landowning elite. By the early 1920s, there were unions of anarcho-communist, socialist, communist, and syndicalist persuasion, organized in several federations, as well as a Socialist party, which was represented in Congress. Women, who composed 22 percent of the national adult labor force in 1914, also participated in unions, strikes, and the Socialist party, although rarely at leadership levels.8 Mostly of immigrant backgrounds, socialist women also formed the core of the Argentine feminist movement, which advocated improvements in female labor conditions as well as civil and political equality.9 These men and women constituted the largest and most active labor movement in early twentiethcentury Latin America. In opposition to organized workers under the sway of “imported” doctrines, the elite increasingly defined itself as “nationalist” and attempted to suppress labor radicalism.10 These attempts would culminate in the Liga.

The labor movement and leftist ideologies were not the only threats to the social hierarchy. One of the bases of the social structure was the family, and the right believed that demographic forces were besieging this institution. Many more men than women had come from abroad; in 1914 there were 115.5 men for every 100 women in Argentina, and the proportion was even more lopsided in Santa Fe and Buenos Aires Provinces and in the capital. This imbalance was not typical of either exporting countries or immigration centers.11 Of nineteen countries surveyed in 1914, including European nations, the United States, and Australia, Argentina had the smallest percentage of legally married men and women in its adult population, although this figure did not differ markedly from that for Mexico.12 About 22 percent of the children born in Argentina between the years of 1914 and 1919 were brought into the world by single mothers—again, not a high proportion by regional standards.13 Nevertheless, these conditions disturbed many porteños, who preferred to compare themselves with Europeans rather than with other Latin Americans. Possibly many of the legally unmarried adults had stable common-law relationships, and many “illegitimate” children were the offspring of these unions. Nevertheless, the annual migration of harvest workers to and from Europe, and widespread seasonal unemployment, must have contributed to the incidence of illegitimate births and the abandonment of wives and children. Finally, the large supply of single men created a high demand for prostitutes, and Buenos Aires became a world center of the white-slave trade.

It was the large numbers of homeless children and prostitutes and the low percentage of married adults that observers perceived as evidence of the decline of the family. Female participation in the labor force was also seen as a divisive influence on the family, for taking the mother out of the home lessened her moral influence and control over her children. The weakness of the family as an institution, according to rightist spokesmen, led to the decay of morality and authority, and thus to social disorder. The future Liga president would blame discord on disorganized foreign households and on those who had families outside of matrimony.14 Meanwhile, upper-class women, together with the church, established a plethora of charitable organizations to ameliorate the poverty and misery of broken homes and, they hoped, to strengthen the existing order.15

If the Liga’s origins can be traced back to the effects of economic development and immigration, the immediate occasion of its founding was the global crisis at the end of World War I. Europe was the scene of massive strikes, widespread economic hardship, and leftist revolutions. Linked through trade and culture to Europe, Argentina also experienced economic difficulties and labor militancy. During the war the nation suffered a severe depression, worse than that of the 1930s. From 1914 to 1919 the cost of living in Buenos Aires climbed by about 60 percent, while salaries fell 16 percent.16 Protesting the decline in real wages, the labor movement became increasingly active. News of radicalism abroad encouraged union activists and, more important, alarmed the upper classes. The incidence of strikes and the number of strikers in the federal capital, which grew from 80 and 24,231 in 1916 to 367 and 308,967 in 1919, respectively, seemed to confirm the danger of leftist revolution.17 Moreover, for the first time in Argentina, landless peons were organizing unions and affiliating with the anarcho-communist and syndicalist federations.18

The Tragic Week (Semana Trágica) of January 1919 took place in this atmosphere of economic crisis, labor militancy, and upper-class fear. It began with a paralyzing general strike in the capital, where workers left their jobs and fought strikebreakers and police, and then it spread to the provinces. Shortly after national troops arrived in Buenos Aires, the general strike and worker-led violence ceased. The disorganized week-long conflict achieved few concrete ends for strikers, but its mobilization of thousands terrorized the upper classes, who were convinced that a revolution had begun.19

From the beginning of the general strike, many upper- and middleclass porteños believed that the government needed their assistance to restore order. Rear Admiral Manuel Domecq García and the Centro Naval, a club for naval officers, coordinated efforts to gather, arm, and train young civilian volunteers. At the same time that troops entered the capital, local security forces and armed vigilantes attacked working-class and Jewish neighborhoods, destroying labor centers and beating and arresting thousands, including innocent bystanders. Distinguished by white armbands, the vigilantes continued to patrol the streets after the general strike ended. These self-styled civil guards were responsible for many of the casualties of the Tragic Week, estimated at anywhere from 141 to 700 killed and between 800 and 2,000 wounded.20

Meanwhile other organizations were forming to help “maintain order. Civilians and military officers gathered in police precinct headquarters, with official approval, to discuss means of protecting their neighborhoods against future worker assaults. The Centro Naval eventually assumed control over these precinct self-defense groups as well as over the civil guards. Domecq García and fellow naval officers, vigilante leaders, and members of the Círculo Militar, the army counterpart of the Centro Naval, decided to integrate these forces into a new and larger group: a standing civil militia, with brigades throughout the capital. A committee headed by Domecq García called for volunteers. At the same time, it invited prestigious figures and representatives from social clubs to join the directorate of the new organization, named the Liga Patriótica Argentina. One of these clubs was female: the Asociación de Damas Patricias. Founded in 1912, this primarily upper-class group awarded prizes to the best Argentine history teachers and otherwise encouraged patriotism.21

Delegates to the first meeting, on January 20, 1919, decided that the purpose of the Liga would be to defend the Argentine nationality against immigrant radicalism. It would teach foreigners to abide by the constitution, which permitted peaceful and constructive change within the given order. The Liga would help the poorer classes, constantly elevating their moral level and keeping tranquility within the home. When anarchism, communism, or violent strikes threatened public peace, however, the Liga would also be prepared to help authorities safeguard life and property.22 Thus the Liga would have two roles, one peaceful and one repressive.

Liga members claimed to oppose revolutionary ideologies on patriotic and moral grounds. The left, they said, was evil and anti-Argentine because it pitted class against class, dividing the nation and undermining authority. A natural hierarchy of intelligence, culture, and wealth existed in every society. To destroy this hierarchy, as the left proposed, would be disastrous for the nation, for it would lead to the rule of the ignorant over the rest of society. The Liga would prevent the uneducated masses from rebelling against their betters, and yet at the same time it would keep the rich from exploiting the poor, thus removing the cause of revolution. Also immoral and divisive was the left’s intention to demolish other cornerstones of the social order, such as property, religion, and the Christian family. As previously indicated, Liga members believed that other forces also threatened the family: for example, the already mentioned women’s work outside the home; widespread immorality; and, to a much lesser extent, feminism. The Liga’s first elected president, Manuel Carlés, defined feminism simply as “the fight against men to masculinize women and feminize men.”23 In comparison to the left, the ranks of feminists were so sparse that the Liga did not view them as much of a danger. Nevertheless, the threats to the family would have to be defused.

To the Liga, public tranquility depended on the strength of the home. Thus, in its view, the issues of nationalism, order, morality, and family were inextricably linked. In turn, the strength of the home rested on motherhood. As one Liga member had previously observed, nationality had its roots in the home, and the mother was the queen bee—teacher of argentinidad.24 Mothers were the ones responsible for teaching children to love God and country, be obedient to authority, follow their moral duty, and resist unreasonable passions. The educators of future generations of Argentines and the moralizers of society, women would have to be enlisted in the Liga’s cause.

That the male founders of the organization glorified home and motherhood was nothing unusual in Hispanic culture. Enlisting women, however, was a novel idea on several grounds. Of all Argentine political parties, only the Socialist had mobilized women. While not a formal party, the Liga was the first permanent organization of the right, and therefore the first such entity to recruit females—in Argentina and perhaps in Latin America.25 This role was not totally new for women; the Liga drew upon the heritage of conservative female philanthropists. Nevertheless, the threat of social dissolution and the dictates of its ideology pushed the Liga into actions that no establishment party had taken before. Yet the mobilization of women also seemed to contradict that ideology, which emphasized a domestic role for women as against a public role for men. Implicitly the Liga would evade this dilemma by calling itself a moral and “patriotic” organization and denying political or partisan motives. Furthermore, its female members would assume “social housekeeping duties, extensions of those they had traditionally performed in the home. Unlike numerous social housekeepers elsewhere in the hemisphere, however, Liga women were indifferent to the struggle for women’s rights.26

Recruitment and Organizational Patterns

In the months following its first meeting, the Liga concentrated its organizing efforts on men, gradually broadening its base of operations from metropolitan Buenos Aires to the entire republic. The precinct selfdefense units formed during the Tragic Week expanded into brigades, numbered according to police precinct; the Liga began with brigades in all but two of the forty-five precincts in the capital.27 Civic and professional associations declared their adherence to Liga principles and organized themselves as brigades. During and after the January strike, white guards had arisen in other parts of the nation, particularly where labor unions were active. They, too, joined as the brigades of their locality. Liga authorities also entrusted friends in the interior with the task of raising brigades, or sometimes local landowners or businessmen contacted the Liga and volunteered their services. Fearful of strikes by landless peons, farmers in the pampas and Mesopotamian region (i.e., between the Parana and Uruguay Rivers) asked the Liga to help them organize brigades, and often the Liga sent recruiters to rural areas of labor strife on its own initiative. Occupational groups, such as teachers, doctors, pilots, and even inventors, formed brigades based on profession. The Liga also claimed to have brigades of “free laborers,” not affiliated with unions: taxi-drivers, bakers, stevedores, cigar-makers, telephone operators, peons, and others. Eventually, men’s brigades were established in each province and national territory.

While brigades arose around the country, Liga officials perfected the structure of the organization. Under statutes passed at the end of May, the brigades enjoyed a large degree of autonomy but were ultimately responsible to the Junta Central, composed of delegates elected by the brigades, and to the Consejo Ejecutivo, chosen in turn by the Junta Central. The Consejo formulated policy, appointed commissions, coordinated the activities of the brigades, and supervised the organization’s finances. The wealthy and prominent men who constituted the Treasury Commission (Comisión de Hacienda) solicited funds from businessmen and employers’ associations. The brigades corresponded with the central authorities, informing them of local activities and requesting funds, manpower, or intercession with the government. Periodically the brigade presidents met with the Junta Central in Buenos Aires and, in turn, received its representatives sent on fact-finding missions to the provinces. In addition, delegates from the brigades gathered at annual congresses to discuss policy, present papers on national problems, and hear reports from Junta members and Liga commissions.28

A microcosm of the national level of the Liga, each brigade had its own elected officers, commissions, and treasury. The most important of these commissions was a paramilitary force, which in the cities was called the “neighborhood defense commission” and in the countryside the “commission in defense of rural labor.” The urban paramilitary groups were organized hierarchically, under precinct, barrio, and block chiefs. Less formally structured, the rural commissions consisted of peons led by landowners and foremen.29 The free labor brigades were also organized for the purpose of breaking strikes and repressing workers.

The person largely responsible for this impressive organization was Manuel Carlés, a former national deputy (1898-1912). Sympathetic to electoral reform, he had ties to the Radical party, particularly what would become its Anti-personalist wing, although he never joined it. Before the Liga’s first elections of April 1919, Domecq García announced his decision to vacate the presidency in favor of a civilian, and Carlés was chosen. Possessing considerable oratorical and administrative skills, as well as wide-ranging contacts among politicians and military officers, Carlés presided ably over the Liga until his death in 1946.30

Carlés and other members had not overlooked the potential role of women in the first few months of Liga activity. According to the statutes, Argentine citizens of both sexes were eligible for membership. Indeed, the Asociación Nacional Pro-Patria de Señoritas, a patriotic organization active for twenty years, announced its adherence to the Liga in May 1919, and delegates from this and other women’s groups attended Liga meetings. The Liga’s independence-day parades on May 24 and July 9, 1919, included participants from upper-class female charitable and civic groups such as the Asociación Nacional Pro-Patria, Asociación de Damas Patricias, and Sociedad de Beneficencia. In fact, Carlés and these women led the May 24th parade.31

The leadership demonstrated considerable acumen in its search for a female constituency. Knowing that women were among the most devout of parishioners, Carlés and other Liga orators delivered speeches in churches. Carlés also addressed upper-class women’s groups, urging them to spread the message of God and fatherland.32

In June 1919 the Junta Central invited representatives of women’s charitable and civic groups in the capital to join the Liga. Believing that women could not remain indifferent to the task of ending social convulsions, sixty-five matrons and twelve young women met to create a Liga Patriótica de Señoras (hereinafter, Señoras). The organization would be dedicated to nationalist and beneficent ends. At the end of July, a permanent Junta Ejecutiva was elected. The Señoras’ first president was Julia Acevedo de Martínez de Hoz, an activist in many Catholic charitable organizations and the wife of a prominent rancher and Liga member. By early October young women had split away from the Señoras, forming their own body, the Liga Patriótica de Señoritas (hereinafter, Señoritas). More than one hundred attended the first meeting in early November and elected their leaders.33

Women also established another branch of the Liga. In January 1920 an association (gremio) of female primary- and secondary-school teachers founded the Liga Patriótica del Magisterio Argentino (hereinafter, Magisterio), which men later joined. The original proponent of the Magisterio, María Contreras Feliú, teacher and officer of the Asociación de Damas Patricias, was elected its president. Mostly composed of women, the Comisión Directiva was located in Buenos Aires, and it headed brigades of maestras and maestros organized by province. The aim of this branch was to spread nationalist ideas in the schools, and the authors of its first manifesto attributed this mission largely to women—not surprisingly, considering their preponderance in the lower levels of education. Although women continued to serve as Magisterio presidents, the branch’s main spokesperson was Justo P. Correa, a high-school professor. This delegation of tasks reflected traditional gender roles: men spoke in public and women did not. The fact that the Magisterio was subordinate to the male Junta Central may have further limited women’s power within it.34 At any rate, the branch never spread to all the provinces, and its educational mission was assumed by the other women’s brigades.

Meanwhile, women had begun to join and constitute brigades, at first affiliating themselves with male brigades. In one such case, that of the city of Mendoza, the first and second vice-presidents and some of the other officers were women.35 Women formed only a handful of free labor brigades, in comparison to the many founded by men. Brigades of Señoras and Señoritas, based on locality and, of course, marital status, constituted the overwhelming majority of the women’s affiliates. The first of these were formed when the Junta Ejecutiva de Señoras chose representatives to establish brigades in eighteen precincts of the capital. Other brigades were formed on their members’ own initiative. Catholic parish groups and other existing organizations declared their adherence to the Liga and transformed themselves into the brigades of their respective precincts, or, in the interior, of their respective cities. In the 1920s, small groups of Señoritas organized not only around localities but also around their main charitable projects, sixteen of the factory schools they established for female workers. In other cases, male brigade leaders suggested to women of the same precinct or town that they form sister organizations. Sometimes female officials in Buenos Aires urged male brigade presidents to establish female auxiliaries in their localities.36 Liguistas of both sexes, therefore, collaborated in the formation of the women’s brigades.

While the Magisterio branch and the female brigades of free laborers were responsible to the male junta, the Señoras and Señoritas each were governed by their own ruling bodies, in theory largely autonomous from the male: the Junta Ejecutiva de Señoras and the Comisión Central de Señoritas, respectively. Nevertheless, although the lines of command were never explicitly outlined, women clearly were subordinate to the Liga president. As if to underline this fact, Carlés usually appeared at important women’s meetings, elections, and public events. Female Liguistas regularly elected their own brigade and national officers, just as their male counterparts did. Ironically, Carlés opposed women’s suffrage in the wider political arena, and he never, to my knowledge, explained why he thought it permissible for women to vote within the Liga but not outside it.37 The internal organization of the women’s national authorities and brigades also resembled that of the men, except that the women did not have paramilitary commissions.

There were many differences between the male and female brigades. The most obvious was that the men, unlike the women, did not organize themselves on the basis of marital status. This difference may simply reflect the fact that married and single women were commonly distinguished from each other by nomenclature and role, and no comparable distinction was made between married men and bachelors in society. Furthermore, while men formed over a dozen professional brigades, women established only those of the Magisterio. Women as yet had barely penetrated professions other than primary and secondary education, and the small number with university degrees preferred feminism and socialism to the Liga. Also, since fewer women than men participated in the labor movement, it is not surprising that male and female Liga authorities found little reason to recruit “free laborers” among women. There were, however, a few exceptions. For example, female department-store employees in Buenos Aires happened to strike in 1919, and, significantly, a brigade for that group was established at the same time as the labor conflict.38

Since the Liga rarely released membership statistics, the size of the organization is difficult to judge. In May 1919 a United States diplomat estimated that there were 52,000 members.39 Three years later the Liga announced that there were 1,527 brigades; by 1927 it claimed 1,200 brigades and 600,000 registered members.40 Even if one takes inactive supporters into account, these figures are clearly exaggerated. A more accurate measure of Liga strength is the number of brigades regularly mentioned in the press and represented in the annual congresses, along with the officers elected by each. Not counting the groups of Señoritas organized around schools, 41 women’s brigades and 550 men’s brigades fall into this category. Brigades elected anywhere from seven to forty-one officers each. Assuming an average of twenty officers per brigade, one may estimate that the Liga’s core consisted of about 820 female and 11,000 male activists throughout its first decade of existence. That men vastly outnumbered women is not surprising, given the novelty of mobilizing women and another reason to be discussed below.

The Liga’s rank and file, however, alternately expanded and shrank according to the perceived gravity of the threat from workers. When necessary, the militant core was prepared to draft additional persons for the cause. This was particularly true of the male brigades. As one member explained, there was a “visible” and an “invisible” Liga.41 The invisible Liga appeared only during labor disturbances, sometimes creating new brigades, which dissolved after quelling workers’ militancy. In this manner, hundreds of men’s units arose and then faded. The women’s sector, in contrast, was more stable, as the problems it tackled did not readily disappear.

The male sector also differed from the female in regional strength. Men’s brigades were heavily concentrated in areas of bitter labor strife essential to the export economy: the cereal zone, the littoral ports, the northern lowlands and quebracho forests, and Patagonia. Considering its share of the national population, the Andean region was underrepresented, especially Mendoza and Tucumán, but here the workers were not, in general, as active as elsewhere. Through debt peonage, police vigilance, and traditional paternalism, plantation and sugar-factory owners in Tucumán managed to control the labor force. The lack of employment opportunities in the depressed northwest further limited unionization. The prevalence of small- and medium-sized landholdings and possibilities for upward mobility helped curb rural labor conflicts in Mendoza. Slightly over half of the male brigades were rural, headquartered in ranches, sugar and tannin mills, railroad junctions, and towns with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. This reflected the fact that many of the postwar era’s major strikes took place in the countryside.42

In contrast, the female brigades were urban. Half were located in the capital and another 17 percent in cities and towns of Buenos Aires Province. Aside from these areas, only the relatively urbanized provinces of Mendoza and Córdoba had more than one brigade apiece, and only four were located in rural areas. Like their male counterparts, female Liguistas were found where the need for their services was the greatest: cities with large concentrations of male and female workers, where the upper classes could not ignore the glaring problems of poverty and family instability. This was also where most female philanthropies already existed. Although women had far fewer brigades than men, their location gave them a greater visibility in the press than their numbers or gender might have suggested. Generally the men preferred to keep their repressive activities “invisible,” although this was not always possible.

Social Backgrounds and Motives

Men and women of the Liga differed somewhat in social background. The entire Junta de Señoras and 97 percent of the Comisión Central de Señoritas from 1920 to 1928 belonged to the upper class, in contrast to 70 percent of a sample of Junta Central and Consejo Ejecutivo members.43 Male leaders were of higher social standing than brigade members: only 18 percent of male brigade delegates to the congresses belonged to the upper class. Most brigade members seem to have come from the middle sectors. Women did not conform to this pattern, except for the Magisterio. According to the Liga and other observers, female brigade members were of “the highest lineage.”44 Both female leaders and rank and file were more aristocratic than their male counterparts.

As is common in Latin American politics, family networks helped determine affiliation to the Liga, particularly in the case of women. Thirty-six percent of the Junta de Señoras and 23 percent of the Comisión Central de Señoritas were closely related to men in the Liga. At least 40 percent of the Junta and an overwhelming 86 percent of the Comisión were closely related to other Liga women. The male authorities, however, drew upon a wider group than did the female: only 17 percent of the Junta Central and Consejo Ejecutivo were closely related to other male Liguistas. Similarly, only 8 percent were closely related to members of the Junta de Señoras and 10 percent to those of the Comisión. Female Liguistas came from a smaller, more cohesive group than the male.45

These patterns reflected differences between men’s and women’s socialization. The figures above suggest that male Liguistas, usually husbands, may have influenced the Señoras as much as their female kin, yet women’s relationships exercised the decisive influence on Señoritas. Young society women were largely secluded from men other than close relatives, and in general they were discouraged from public activities. They developed ties with female relatives and classmates at elite Catholic schools. Frequent visiting and, after marriage, contact through charity work bolstered these friendships.46 Indeed, 58 percent of the Señoras studied had actively participated in philanthropic and civic associations, whose memberships overlapped. These kinship and associational networks nourished the Liga, yet they were narrowly upper-class. By recruiting exclusively among these women, male and female leaders drew upon their rich organizational experience but limited the breadth and size of the female ranks.

Men enjoyed greater opportunities to broaden their networks than women, beginning in the universities and continuing throughout life. Many Liga men were acquainted with each other through politics; about a third of the central authorities were active in parties opposed to the Radical government. Another third belonged to the powerful Sociedad Rural Argentina or an affiliated rural association, while 48 percent were members of the prestigious Jockey Club. Others knew each other through their contact with the military. Seventeen percent of the central authorities had served as officers, and a few others, including Carlés, taught in military schools or belonged to military clubs.

Despite these differences, the principal motive behind male and female participation was the same: to preserve the class hierarchy. The social backgrounds of Liguistas, the stated goals, the circumstances surrounding the creation of the group, and the activities of the “invisible” Liga all prove this point. In the Argentine context, however, female membership in the Liga was unique and merits additional explanation. The founders of the Córdoba women’s brigade echoed this aim when they declared that “the moment had arrived for the Argentine woman to incorporate herself into the movement of defense against the designs of demolition.”47 In addition, one could say that female (and male) Liguistas’ concern for the state of the family among the poor led them to join the Liga, yet this preoccupation was also tied to the issue of social stability. Nevertheless, women’s networks and prior experience with social welfare projects constituted a secondary motive for participating in the Liga, which they regarded as another benevolent institution. Another reason for their activity in the Liga was that the male leaders’ recruitment drives among women gave them a sense of importance. Finally, the Liga’s emphasis on home and motherhood was appealing because it confirmed women’s own traditional roles.


In keeping with their roles as mothers and philanthropists, Liga women were responsible for strengthening and “argentinizing” (argentinizar) working-class families, with the object of engendering social peace. Brigades of Señoritas and the Magisterio carried out this task mainly through education. The teachers urged the hiring of native-born instructors in the public schools and the spread of nationalist ideas through the classroom. The Señoritas concentrated on influencing female workers through tuition-free schools in factories and workshops, beginning in July 1920. One reason for creating the schools was moralistic. Jorgelina Cano, president of the Comisión Central, argued that they would serve as a wholesome alternative to bars or “sensual” tango schools, places that women frequented after work.48

The schools served purposes other than the moral. Although the Liga theoretically opposed women’s work outside the home, its members recognized that many households depended on this source of income. Furthermore, they believed that teaching mothers the principles of nutrition and hygiene would improve the health of impoverished families. Therefore, another goal of the schools was to enhance working women’s capacities as wage-earners and housewives. In this regard, the schools offered instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, typing, sewing, cooking, and other domestic and vocational skills.

The most important purpose was, however, “to transform the hatred of the working class into the friendship of the workers for their patrones and benefactors,” as one Liguista put it.49 To further this end, pupils were taught Argentine civics and such “Argentine values” as piety, obedience, punctuality, deference toward one’s betters, love of country and work, and the “virtue of contentment,” values conducive to the creation of a pliant labor force. The singing of patriotic anthems reinforced the ideological messages of these lessons. Ironically, the daily La Nación claimed that the schools in no way manifested any class interest, yet added that by reaffirming “the conservative feminine sense,” they would give female workers “a social vision of the real woman, not of the red lady,”50 meaning socialist feminists. As the “real woman” was religious, teaching the catechism became an integral part of the Liga curriculum. Carlés considered religious training for women particularly important, not only because it encouraged obedience to authority, but because he thought it neutralized feminism.51 Lest anyone fear that education would encourage rebelliousness, one student assured a Liga congress that the schools’ aims were limited to teaching women to be conscientious mothers and to hate disorder.52

The Liga hoped that pupils would disseminate their knowledge at home and raise their first-generation children to follow Argentine values. Immigrant women would teach their families to ignore subversive doctrines, attend church, work diligently, and rise through the system. In this manner, class conflict would be resolved largely through the efforts of mothers. The Señoritas seemed to assume that the female proletariat was inherently susceptible to their message, despite its participation in labor conflicts. It is difficult to determine whether their assumption proved accurate. By 1927 the Liga claimed to have taught about 10,000 women; more than twenty years later it announced that about fifty schools were still in operation.53 Another possible measure of success was the fact that male workers, whom the Liga considered more prone to leftism than women, gradually joined the student body. Their numbers, however, remained small.

The Señoritas served as school administrators rather than teachers. They solicited space and equipment from management, hired the teachers, inspected the operations, designed the curriculum, and collected funds and books. Aside from administering the factory schools, which proved to be the single most important Liga social project, the Señoritas also performed other services. Their precinct brigades sometimes served as adjuncts to the male brigades, organizing their fund-raising drives and other events. The Señoritas donated textbooks to poor children and opened lending libraries and homes for juvenile delinquents.

Meanwhile the Señoras also established an array of social projects. They created free neighborhood schools and kindergartens, maternity hospitals, day-care centers for children of working mothers, free medical facilities, and other services for underprivileged families. They sponsored free entertainment in working-class areas, always with a nationalistic slant, such as films on Argentine themes. Organizing celebrations of national holidays and traditions, such as folk dances (other than the tango), salutes to the flag and armed forces, and typical meals was another activity. Sometimes they solicited contributions for these functions in the streets. Perhaps their best-known venture was the annual exposition and sale of textiles produced by Indian women in cottage industries, held from 1920 at least through the early 1930s. These expositions had several purposes: to stimulate Argentine industry and the spirit of free enterprise among Indians; to help an impoverished and truly “national” group; to honor the ability of traditional craftswomen; and to help women whose participation in the labor market had not uprooted them from their homes.54

Seemingly contradicting their sanctioned role, female Liguistas carried out many activities in public view. Women organized events and appeared in parades and annual congresses, where they occasionally gave speeches. The presidents of the Señoras and Señoritas even participated in the executive committees of these congresses. Nevertheless, in keeping with the wife’s role as helpmate, some of the women’s public functions, such as fund-raising, were designed to help male brigades. Furthermore, most of their projects were aimed at female workers and their families and concerned health, educational, religious, and other matters traditionally in the woman’s sphere of duty. Even the leaders’ speeches focused on specific remedies for such issues, or on the “unique” feminine qualities that enabled Liga women to join men in the struggle against social disorder.55 Never did they voice any feminist sympathies. Female Liguistas only barely trespassed into the male sphere of public life.

Men carried out the not-quite-invisible repression of labor. Throughout the nation, the Liga attacked unions and attempted to reinstate “Argentine values” in labor-management relations. In the taxicab drivers strike in Buenos Aires of May 1921, for example, armed Liguistas invaded union headquarters, killing two drivers and forcing others to kneel and sing the national anthem.56 During the same year, Liga brigades in Entre Ríos fired upon peaceful workers’ demonstrations, destroyed Socialist party offices, and assaulted individual militants in the streets.57 At harvest time in the pampas, Liga members posted themselves at railroad stations and prevented suspicious characters from getting off the trains, while rural commissions patrolled the countryside.

Supported financially and logistically by the Asociación Nacional del Trabajo, a powerful employers’ group, the Liga organized its brigades of free laborers in strike-prone industries and rural areas. Theoretically these brigades were supposed to provide their members with the same economic benefits as unions, without “subjugating” them to the ideological demands of leftist labor federations. In practice, however, the workers’ brigades were merely the armies of businessmen and landowners used against union foes. Sometimes workers whose unions had been smashed by employers, the Liga, or official forces were compelled to join the ranks of free labor. This, for example, took place in Patagonia, after other brigades supplied and assisted the army in its massacre of strikers in 1921. It was common for Liga landowners to deny jobs to harvest workers unless they joined the organization and could show their membership cards. The workers’ brigades also included agents provocateurs hired by management to foment strife between laborers and to spy on union members.58

As a result of repression and economic recovery, the labor movement diminished in numbers and activism. Thus, after 1922 Liga men joined their correligionarias, abandoning tactics of confrontation for those of social peace. Although male brigades set up their own social projects, often financed by the proceeds of women’s fund-raising efforts, these charitable works rarely assumed the scope of the women’s. Men directed more attention to publicity and lobbying campaigns, aimed primarily at influential male leaders and secondarily at the public. As part of these efforts, male Liguistas routinely delivered speeches, put up posters, and distributed notices of their activities to the press. Local brigades and the central authorities interceded with provincial and national governments, alerting them to educational, economic, security, and other needs.59 Men’s and women’s peaceful activities, then, were aimed at different groups and carried out in different arenas.

Gender roles within the Liga also differed in another respect. The Señoritas’ factory schools and other women’s projects were designed to improve the workers’ lot in limited, practical ways, without increasing the autonomy of workers. The Liga recognized, however, that broader means were necessary to alleviate the misery of the poor while preserving the essentials of the capitalist system. Carlés and other male leaders assumed the task of analyzing national problems and formulating an ideological alternative to both leftism and laissez-faire capitalism. In the congresses and other important meetings, male Liguistas and guest speakers discussed such possible measures as social security, public housing, a national labor code, industrialization policy, and even limited land reform. No clear consensus on these ideas emerged within the organization, and, partly for this reason, the Liga had little effect on national legislation in the 1920s. There was also no urgent need to adopt the reforms entertained by the Liga because the labor movement had declined and prosperity had (temporarily) returned. Nevertheless, the Liga left a heritage of a “third way,” which would influence future politicians such as Manuel Fresco, a Liga member, and perhaps Juan Perón.60 At any rate, this discussion demonstrates another division of labor within the Liga: the men served as ideologues, while the women were the practical reformers. In this respect the Liga also prefigured the division of labor between Juan and Eva Perón, although Eva had a greater role in speechmaking, propaganda, and labor policy than female Liguistas, and she was much more of a compañera to the poor than they were.61


The Liga’s failure to unite behind and implement a coherent set of proposals did not overshadow its successes. Its multiple responses to the leftist threat reflected its ability to attract both sexes. Friendly and hostile observers alike recognized its unique appeal for women. When the Señoritas held their organizational meeting, Carlés proudly announced that for the first time in Argentine history, young women had dedicated themselves to the advancement of the fatherland.62 Socialist women might well have disputed this claim, but Carlés did not consider them to be true nationalists. The editors of the left-of-center Córdoba newspaper, La Voz del Interior, commented extensively on the local Señoras’ brigade. They found it difficult to believe that women had created a group and had written manifestos; surely men were behind these actions. Only rarely were women capable of exercising such strong feelings. Weak, tame, and ingenuous, they had traditionally been manipulated by the church, and now the Liga was taking over that role.63

In contrast to this “progressive” publication, Liga men did not condescend to their female counterparts, at least not as obviously. In the congress of 1925, for example, Carlés singled out the Señoritas for special commendation, calling them “the saintly women of the Republic who serve as models of the true Argentine civilization.”64. The male leadership believed that the collaboration of women rounded out the social mission of the Liga.65 Clearly they valued the importance of the feminine contribution; otherwise, there would have been no reason to recruit women.

Whether Liga men organized and controlled female members, as the opposition claimed, is a more complex question. Both men and women created female brigades; that women exercised no comparable role in organizing male brigades is understandable, considering that men had entered the Liga before most women. While women followed Carlés’s leadership and the general policies set by male authorities, they controlled their own welfare programs. Despite the organization’s antifeminist views, its female members gained valuable experience in administration, voting, holding meetings, and other activities related to politics more than twenty years before Argentine women achieved suffrage rights. Finally, if one simply assumes that male Liguistas “used” women, one ignores the many compelling reasons why the latter joined the organization. Men headed the Liga, but its female members were far from passive.

In at least one sense, however, the male leaders did manipulate women. The Liga issued many photographs to the press, and women appeared much more frequently in them than the size of their membership would have warranted. A favorite outlet for these pictures was the masscirculation magazine Caras y Caretas. One of their purposes was to present female Liguistas as a model of womanhood to be imitated by upwardly mobile women, similar to the intent of the factory schools. Another, more important function related to the image of the Liga that male leaders wished to cultivate. The entire ideological spectrum revered women as mothers and peacemakers, and the Liga took advantage of this view. Photographs of women inaugurating schools or sitting among men at meetings communicated the more peaceful and benevolent values of the organization. At the same time, they helped camouflage those repressive acts that detracted from its respectability.66 In an ironic reversal of roles, women’s heightened visibility helped mask the “invisible” male ranks. The Liga’s attempt to cover its violent side, however, was not very successful, and historians have since overlooked the “visible” women.

The Liga’s manipulation of the female mystique demonstrates that one should not overestimate women’s autonomy in the group. Despite the fact that their activities were politically oriented, they did not directly challenge the prevalent definition of gender roles. In conformity with tradition and prior experience, Liga women, although few in number, generally served as the philanthropists and behind-the-scenes organizers, while the men were the combatants, publicists, lobbyists, and ideologues. The dual nature of the Liga—suppressive and cooptative, invisible and visible—relied upon the participation of men and women and a sexual division of labor.

The Liga’s programs and recruitment of both sexes ultimately proved attractive to groups other than the upper class, whose interests they were originally designed to protect. National governments before the 1940s did not implement social welfare reforms because they did not view the small and divided labor movement as a threat. Partly for the same reason, nationalists between the late 1920s and early 1940s, including Liguistas, directed most of their opposition to liberal democracy and economic dependency rather than labor. Women continued to join some rightist organizations, such as the Legión Cívica Argentina, the largest one of the early 1930s, but the shift in emphasis robbed their tasks of significance. By the 1940s, however, industrial growth, rural-urban migration, and renewed labor militancy created the conditions for a revival of Liga-style nationalism—this time with a vastly different leadership and social base. Juan and Eva Perón helped fulfill working-class economic aspirations and mobilized male and female laborers, thus incorporating them into the given order, while at the same time they repressed leftist and independent unions. In effect they carried out much of the Liga’s program, although they inspired a greater sense of power and self-esteem in the masses than the Liga had ever intended, and they took political control away from the elite. These two changes would make this comparison odious to Liga members and Peronists alike.67 Ironically, as a result of decades of ruling-class intransigence, what was initially an antirevolutionary program appeared revolutionary when put into practice.


The year 1919 marked the founding of the Liga Patriótica Argentina (hereinafter, Liga), and 1928 was the last year for which proceedings of its annual congresses were available. Also, after 1928 the Liga’s primary foe became the Yrigoyen regime, rather than the labor movement, as discussed below. The Liga still exists,


David Rock, Politics in Argentina, 1890-1930: The Rise and Fall of Radicalism (Cambridge, 1975), p. 181. Enrique Zuleta Alvarez discussed the historiography of the Argentine right at length in El nacionalismo argentino, 2 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1975), II, 565-811. Another description of the literature is found in Alistair Hennessy, “Fascism and Populism in Latin America,” in Walter Laqueur, ed., Fascism: A Reader’s Guide. Analyses, Interpretations, Bibliography (Berkeley, 1976), pp. 272-280. For information on the workings of the Liga, see Sandra F. McGee, “The Social Origins of Counterrevolution in Argentina, 1900-1932” (Ph.D. Diss., University of Florida, 1979), pp. 121-237; Bock, Politics in Argentina, pp. 180-202, passim; Osvaldo Bayer, “1921: La masacre de Jacinto Arauz,” Todo Es Historia (Buenos Aires), no. 45 (Jan. 1971), 40-55; and references in Bayer’s Los vengadores de la Patagonia trágica, 3 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1972-74). Works on the right have generally emphasized the years after 1929, and thus have not treated the Liga in detail.


An exception, Bayer mentioned female brigades in Los vengadores, I, 48.


Works on right-wing women include Michele Mattelart, “Chile: The Feminine Side of the Coup or When Bourgeois Women Take to the Streets,” NACLA’s Latin America & Empire Report, 9 (Sept. 1975), 14-25; María de los Angeles Crummett, “El Poder Femenino: The Mobilization of Women against Socialism in Chile,” Latin American Perspectives, 4 (Fall 1977), 103-113; “Feminismo Balaguerista: A Strategy of the Right,” NACLA’s Latin America & Empire Report, 8 (Apr. 1974), 28-32; Sandra F. McGee, “Right-Wing Female Activists in Buenos Aires, 1900-1932,” in Barbara J. Harris and Jo Ann K. McNamara, eds., Women and the Social Structure. Papers from the Fifth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women (Durham, forthcoming). Jean A. Meyer, in The Cristero Rebellion: The Mexican People between Church and State, 1926–1929, trans, by Richard Southern (Cambridge, 1976), discussed both men and women, but Meyer and some of the other students of the Cristeros do not consider them right-wing.


Gerda Lerner described this approach in The Majority Finds its Past: Placing Women in History (New York, 1979), p. 180.


In Womanhood in America. From Colonial Times to the Present, 2d ed. (New York, 1979). pp. ix, 77–80, Mary P. Ryan defined the female domestic sphere and the male public sphere.


República Argentina, Dirección Nacional de Servicio Estadístico, Cuarto censo general de la nación, 3 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1947-52), I, lxii, 1; Adolfo Dorfman, Historia de la industria argentina, 2d ed. (Buenos Aires, 1970), p. 285; James R. Scobie, Buenos Aires: Plaza to Suburb, 1870-1910 (New York, 1974), p. 273. Also see Carl Solberg, Immigration and Nationalism: Argentina and Chile, 2890-2924 (Austin, 1970); Roberto Cortés Conde, El progreso argentino, 1880-1914 (Buenos Aires, 1979); Carlos E Díaz Alejandro, Essays on the Economic History of the Argentine Republic (New Haven, 1970); James R. Scobie, Revolution on the Pampas. A Social History of Argentine Wheat, 1869–1910 (Austin, 1964).


República Argentina, Comisión Nacional del Censo, Tercer censo nacional, 10 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1916), I, 252. On women and the labor force, see Donna J. Guy, “Women, Peonage, and Industrialization: Argentina, 1810-1914,” Latin American Research Review, 16:3 (1981), 65-89.

Standard labor sources include Hobart A. Spalding, Jr., La clase trabajadora argentina (documentos para su historia—1890/1912) (Buenos Aires, 1970); Sebastián Marotta, El movimiento sindical argentino: Su génesis y desarrollo, 3 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1960-61, 1970); Richard J. Walter, The Socialist Party of Argentina, 1890-1930 (Austin, 1977); Richard Alan Yoast, “The Development of Argentine Anarchism: A Socio-ideological Analysis” (Ph.D. Diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1975); Rubén Iscaro, Origen y desarrollo del movimiento sindical argentino (Buenos Aires, 1958).


On feminism and women of the left, see Katharine S. Dreier, Five Months in the Argentine from a Womans Point of View. 1918 to 1919 (New York, 1920); Yoast, “Argentine Anarchism,” pp. 299-300; María del Carmen Feijoó, “Las luchas feministas,” Todo Es Historia (Jan. 1978), 7–23; Nancy Caro Hollander, “Women in the Political Economy of Argentina” (Ph.D. Diss., U.C.L.A., 1974); Cynthia Jeffress Little, “Education, Philanthropy, and Feminism: Components of Argentine Womanhood, 1860-1926,” in Asuncion Lavrin, ed., Latin American Women: Historical Perspectives (Westport, Conn., 1978), pp. 235–253; Marifran Carlson, “Feminism and Reform: A History of the Argentine Feminist Movement to 1926” (Ph.D. Diss., University of Chicago, 1983).


Employers’ associations’ tactics and other examples of repression are described in Spalding, Clase trabajadora, pp. 354-362; Marotta, Movimiento sindical, II, 69-79; Eduardo Gilimón, Un anarquista en Buenos Aires (1890–1910) (Buenos Aires, 1971), pp. 99-107.


Comparable figures for the United States, another immigrant country, were 106 men for every 100 women, and for Mexico, a rapidly developing nation barely affected by immigration, 98.5 men, in 1900. Neither did the demographic imbalance of the littoral zone characterize the Argentine interior. See Argentina, Tercer censo, I, 128, 130-131; México, Dirección General de Estadística, Quinto censo de población, 15 de mayo de 1930, 8 vols. (Mexico City, 1932-36), VIII, Part 32, xix.


Argentina, Tercer censo, I, 188. According to México, Quinto censo, VIII, Part 32, 50, 48 percent of Mexican adult males and 44 percent of its adult females were legally married in 1900.


República Argentina, Dirección General de Estadística, La población y el movimiento demográfico en el período 1910-1925 (Buenos Aires, 1926), p. 29. The illegitimacy rate in the interior was much higher than in the capital. According to Charles C. Cumberland, Mexico. The Struggle for Modernity (New York, 1968), p. 193, 45 percent of Mexican children born in the early twentieth century were illegitimate, although some of these were offspring of couples married in religious rather than civil ceremonies.


See Manuel Carlés’s speeches in Liga Patriótica Argentina, Catecismo de la doctrina patria (Buenos Aires, 1921), p. 14; Discurso pronunciado por el Dr. Manuel Cariés ante la honorable Sociedad de Beneficencia el 26 de mayo de 1919 (Buenos Aires, 1919), p. 6. Contemporary comments on these social problems can be found in Dreier, Five Months, pp. 18-20, 168; Revista Militar (Buenos Aires), 19 (Feb. 1919), 386; Manuel Gálvez, La trata de blancas (Buenos Aires, 1904); La Prensa, May 18, 1919; Enrique Ruiz Guiñazú, “Las fuerzas perdidas en la economía nacional,” Instituto Popular de Conferencias, 3 (Aug. 10, 1917), 178.


On such organizations, see McGee, “Female Activists”; Little, “Components of Argentine Womanhood.” The memberships of these groups overlapped. The upper-class female philanthropic works differed from socialist and feminist projects for the poor in their religious and class bias, amateurism, and sense of noblesse oblige. On these distinctions, see the feminist medical doctor Cecilia Grierson’s Decadencia del Consejo National de Mujeres de la República Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1910), pp. 3-32. Many of the well-known feminists, like Grierson, were professionals. Catholic social-welfare organizations, staffed by men and women, would strongly influence the Liga. Néstor Tomás Auza described these groups in Los católicos argentinos: Su experiencia política y social (Buenos Aires, 1962).


Vicente Vásquez-Presedo, Estadísticas históricas argentinas (comparadas), 2 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1976), II, Segunda parte 1914-1939, 46. On the depression, see Guido Di Tella and Manuel Zymelman, Los ciclos económicos argentinos (Buenos Aires, 1973), pp. 129–186; Joseph S. Tulchin, “The Argentine Economy during the First World War, ” Review of the River Plate (Buenos Aires), June 19 and 30, July 10, 1970.


Vásquez-Presedo, Estadísticas, II, 47.


Carl Solberg, “Rural Unrest and Agrarian Policy in Argentina, 1912-1930,” Journal of Inter-American Studies and World Affairs, 13 (Jan. 1971), 30-36; Yoast, “Argentine Anarchism,” pp. 208-210, 226-227.


Works on the Tragic Week include Nicholas Babini, “La Semana Trágica. Pesadilla de una siesta de verano,” Todo Es Historia (Sept. 1967), 8-20; Hugo del Campo, La Semana Trágica,” Polémica, No. 53 (1971). 63-84; Julio Godio, La Semana Trágica de enero de 1919 (Buenos Aires, 1972); José R. Romariz, La Semana Trágica. Relato de los hechos sangrientos del año 1919 (Buenos Aires, 1952).


Hobart A. Spalding, Jr., Organized Labor in Latin America. Historical Case Studies of Workers in Dependent Societies (New York, 1977), p. 87 n.8. Also see Victor A. Mirelman, “The Semana Trágica of 1919 and the Jews in Argentina,” Jewish Social Studies (New York), 37 (Jan. 1975), 61-73. A longer description of these events is found in McGee, “Counterrevolution,” pp. 129-139.


Revista Militar, 19 (Jan. 1919), 198-202; La Razón, Jan. 17, 1919; La Nación, Jan. 12-13, 1919. This and other upper-class female organizations are described in Adolfo Sciurano Castañeda, ed., Album de oro de la mujer argentina (Buenos Aires, 1930).


La Epoca, Jan. 20, 1919; “La Semana Trágica,” La Nación, Jan. 19, 1969.


Manuel Cariés in Liga Patriótica Argentina, Octavo Congreso Nacionalista (Buenos Aires, 1927), p. 57. Liga speakers and publicists presented their views in the organization’s annual congresses and pamphlets. Examples of these views include Carlés in Liga, Octavo Congreso, pp. 52-53; Liga Patriótica Argentina, Séptimo Congreso Nacionalista (Buenos Aires, 1926), pp. 60-61; Liga, Catecismo; Liga Patriótica Argentina, Discursos pronunciados en el acto inaugural y veredicto del Jurado de la Tercera Exposición Nacional de Tejidos y Bordados (Buenos Aires, 1922), pp. 6-7. Also see M. J. Lagos in Liga Patriótica Argentina, El programa de la Liga Patriótica Argentina y la educación por el ejemplo (como una consagración del concepto Patria) (Buenos Aires, 1923).


Estanislao Zeballos, “Discurso inaugural,” Instituto Popular de Conferencias (Buenos Aires), 1 (July 8, 1915), P-23.


Women belonged to the Brazilian Integrahsts, the Mexican Costeros, and the Chilean Conservative party, but only years after women had begun to participate in the Liga. More studies on rightist women are needed in order to determine whether there were cases predating the Liga.


For examples of social housekeepers who were also feminists (such as Jane Addams), see K. Lynn Stoner, “From the House to the Streets: The Cuban Woman’s Movement for Legal Change, 1898-1958” (Ph. D. Diss., Indiana University, 1983), p. 219; Cynthia Jeffress Little, “Moral Reform and Feminism,” Journal of Inter-American Studies and World Affairs, 17 (Nov. 1975), 386-397; Ryan, Womanhood in America, pp. 136-150. (I take the term “social housekeeper” from Ryan.) Not all of the women discussed in these works opposed class conflict, however, and even those who did, such as Jane Addams, maintained some sympathies for the labor movement, unlike female Liguistas.


República Argentina, Policía de la Capital, Orden del día, 34 (1920), 832-834; Liga Patriótica Militar, Solemne homenaje de la Liga Patriótica Militar de Chile a la Liga Patriótica Argentina (Santiago, 1922), p. 16. Information on brigade formation was taken from daily news items in La Prensa and La Fronda, 1919-21. The national press described the Liga’s activities extensively, on a day-to-day basis, through the period under study.


Liga Patriótica Argentina, Estatutos (Buenos Aires, 1919), PP. 23-29; Caras y Caretas, May 25, 1919.


La Fronda, Apr. 11, 1920; Liga Militar, Solemne homenaje, pp. 33-34; Estatutos de la Liga Patriótica Argentina, Gualeguaychú, n.d., private papers, Julio Irazusta, Las Casuarinas, Gualeguaychú, Entre Ríos, notebook 1. I thank Señor Irazusta for letting me use his papers. Also see Liga Patriótica Argentina, Brigada 19, Libro de Actas, 1926-1930, Liga Patriótica Argentina office, Buenos Aires, for information on the inner workings of brigades.


Information on Carlés was found in Archivo de La Prensa, Buenos Aires, leg. 21037. Alain Rouquié stated in Poder militar y sociedad política en la Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1981), trans, by Arturo Iglesias Echegaray, p. 145, that the civil guards and the Liga had “undeniable links” to the Radical party. This is somewhat overstated. While Radicals were active in the civil guards and Liga, conservatives vastly outnumbered them. As long as these groups seemed to oppose only workers, the government accepted them. When the Ligas growing support among the upper sectors and the military seemed to threaten the government, however, the Yrigoyen regime and the UCR began to oppose it. I discuss the relationship between the Radicals and the Liga in more detail in The Argentine Patriotic League and the Forces of Counterrevolution, 1900-1930 (in progress).


Liga, Estatutos, p. 23; La Prensa, May 13-15, 1919; Caras y Caretas, Apr. 26 and July 26, 1919. See Cynthia Jeffress Little, “The Society of Beneficence in Buenos Aires, 1823-1900” (Ph. D. Diss., Temple University, 1980), on this powerful women’s organization.


Crítica, Oct. 25, 1946; La Protesta, Apr. 29, 1922 and Apr. 11, 1923; La Vanguardia, Dec. 15, 1921; Bayer, Los vengadores, I, 49; and Brigada 19, Libro de Actas, Apr. 16, 1928, refer to speeches in churches and before female audiences. Also see Discurso pronunciado ante la Sociedad.


Caras y Caretas, July 12, 1919; El Pueblo, June 30, July 1, July 21-22, 1919; La Nación, Sept. 2, 1919; La Fronda, Oct. 18 and Nov. 1, 1919; Jorgelina Cano in Liga Patriótica Argentina, Tercer Congreso de Trabajadores (Buenos Aires, 1922), p. 327.


La Prensa, Jan. 12 and 31, 1920.


La Fronda, Aug. 10, 1920.


Information on brigade formation was taken from the daily press. Examples include La Voz del Interior (Córdoba), Oct. 23, 1919; Los Principios (Córdoba), Apr. 29, 1919; El Pueblo, Aug. 10-12, 1919; La Fronda, Aug. 28, 1920; La Prensa, Feb. 2 and 8, 1920; La Nación, Nov. 13, 1919 and May 19, 1921.


Carlés, “El feminismo en la República Argentina,” in Miguel J. Font, ed., La mujer. Encuesta feminista argentina. Hacia la formación de una liga feminista sudamericana (Buenos Aires, 1921), p. 163.


El Pueblo, Aug. 15, 1919. The female Magisterio brigade in Mendoza also arose at the time of a teacher’s strike; see La Nación, Aug. 13, 1920.


Ambassador Frederick J. Stimson to Secretary of State, Buenos Aires, May 8, 1919, despatch no. 810, U.S. Department of State, Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Argentina, 1910-1929, National Archives Microfilm Copy M514, 835.00/171 (hereinafter, U.S. Dept, of State, File No.).


Liga Militar, Solemne homenaje, p. 18; Liga, Octavo Congreso, p. 409. Even the Brigada 19, Libro de Actas, 1926-1930 did not state the number of brigade members. Its entry for May 18, 1927, however, did list 15 officers. The Córdoba brigades of men and of Señoras had 275 and 550 members, respectively, according to La Voz del Interior, Oct. 23-26, 1919, but it is not clear whether these brigades were typical. Normally the press listed only brigade officers, not members. According to La Nación, May 9, 1921, there were forty-five women’s brigades, but I could confirm the existence of only forty-one. My estimates may be low; Bayer, in “Jacinto Arauz,” p. 42, claimed that there were about 1,000 brigades, but he did not indicate sources. Whether one accepts the estimate of almost 12,000 activists or the Liga’s figure of hundreds of thousands, these numbers compare very favorably to, for example, the Socialist party membership of 8,339 in 1921. See Walter, Socialist Party, p. 173.


Liga Militar, Solemne homenaje, pp. 19-20.


I classified all brigades located in cabeceras as urban. Some of these governmental seats, however, had fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. Therefore, more brigades were located in the countryside than the figure in the text suggests. On Mendoza and Tucumán, see Donna J. Guy, “The Rural Working Class in Nineteenth-Century Argentina: Forced Plantation Labor in Tucumán,” Latin American Research Review, 13:1 (1978), 135-157; William J. Fleming, “The Cultural Determinants of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development: A Case Study of Mendoza Province, Argentina, 1861-1914,” Journal of Economic History, 39 (Mar. 1979), 222.


I classified men as upper-class if they were listed in a prestigious social register or if they belonged to one or more of the following: Jockey Club, Sociedad Rural Argentina or local rural association, Círculo de Armas. The sample consisted of 217 Liguistas; 146 brigade delegates to the annual congresses from 1920 to 1928, and 71 members of the Junta Central and Consejo Ejecutivo for these years. I classified women as upper-class if they belonged to a prestigious philanthropic group, were listed in a social register, or were the wives or daughters of upper-class men. Forty-five women participated in the Junta de Señoras and seventy-one in the Comisión Central de Señoritas during these years. I also checked my designations (of both sexes) by showing the lists of names to two prominent Argentine scholars, Néstor Tomás Auza and José Luis de Imaz, author of La clase alta de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires, 1962), and I thank them for their help. The most important sources were Archivo de La Prensa-, Album de oro; Libro de Oro (Buenos Aires, 1911, 1923, 1936, 1943 eds.); Carlos Calvo, Nobiliario del antiguo virreynato del Río de la Plata, 6 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1936-43); Jockey Club, Nómina de los socios (Buenos Aires, 1926 and 1943 eds.); “Nómina de socios,” Anales de la Sociedad Rural Argentina, 52 (Feb. 1918), 116-134; Sociedad Rural Argentina, Nómina de socios (Buenos Aires, 1938 and 1962 eds.). For a complete list of sources, see McGee, “Female Activists,” n. 43, and “Counterrevolution,” pp. 349–351. I found only fragmentary evidence on the social backgrounds of rank-and-file members in the press and Liga publications. See La Fronda, Apr. 11, 1920; Liga Patriótica Argentina, Primero de Mayo Argentino. Conmemoración del pronunciamento de Urquiza en Entre Ríos (Buenos Aires, 1921), p. 75; identifications of members in Brigada 19, Libro de Actas.


La Voz del Interior, Oct. 24, 1919. Also see La Fronda, Nov. 1, 1919.


The most important sources for tracing family ties were Calvo, Nobiliario, and social registers such as Libro de Oro. “Close relationships” include parents, children, siblings, spouses, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, grandchildren, first cousins, and brothers- and sisters-in-law.


Two memoirs were valuable sources for the socialization of upper-class women: Celina de Arenaza, Sin memoria (Buenos Aires, 1980); and Carmen Peers de Perkins, Eramos jóvenes el siglo y yo (Buenos Aires, 1969). Little information exists on the upbringing of middle-class women in this period.


La Voz del Interior, Oct. 23, 1919. For a similar statement of purpose, see La Prensa, May 25, 1919.


Comisión de Señoritas de la Liga Patriótica Argentina, Sus escuelas de obreras en las fábricas (Buenos Aires, 1922), pp. 1-2; La Fronda, July 2, 1920; Marcela Bosch in Liga Patriótica Argentina, Primer Congreso de Trabajadores (Buenos Aires, 1920), pp. 101-105; Comisión Central de Señoritas, Memoria de diez escuelas obreras, 1924-mayo-1925 (Buenos Aires, 1925), pp. 9, 44-50.


Juan de Dios Gallegos in Liga Militar, Solemne homenaje, p. 18.


La Nación, July 5, 1920.


Octavo Congreso, p. 57.


Carmen Lasse in Séptimo Congreso, p. 435.


Comisión Central de Señoritas, Memoria, 1927-mayo-1928 (Buenos Aires, 1928); Brigada 19 y 21, La verdad de la Liga Patriótica Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1950), p. 11. I found mention of nineteen factory schools by 1927, Press and Liga publications. An interview with María Luján Baylac de Eizaguirre, former head of social services in the Grafa Factory, Buenos Aires, July 6, 1981, confirmed the existence of schools in that workplace and others.


Hortensia Berdier in Discursos pronunciados, pp. 1-2. Brigade activities of Señoritas, Señoras, the Magisterio, and men are discussed extensively in the press.


For example, see Jorgelina Cano in Tercer Congreso, pp. 327-328. In Supermadre: Women in Politics in Latin America (Austin, 1979), Elsa M. Chaney noted how women in public life have usually been concerned with social welfare, public morality, and other matters that parallel women’s roles in the family.

Feminists also extolled the “unique” qualities of women at this time. Their social backgrounds, labor sympathies, and opinions on female rights, however, distinguished them from Liga women. In this regard, Eva Perón would occupy a middle position between Liga “social housekeepers” and socialist feminists. She, too, saw herself as the “mother” of Argentina, and while she favored female suffrage and other rights, she devoted little attention to such issues and viewed feminism contemptuously. See Chaney, Supermadre, p. 21, and Nicholas Fraser and Marysa Navarro, Eva Perón (New York, 1980), p. 109.


Unsigned entry, Buenos Aires, May 25, 1921, U.S. Dept, of State, 835.00/326.


On the events in Entre Ríos, see Liga, Primero de Mayo-, Liga Patriótica Argentina, Humanitarismo práctico. La Liga Patriótica Argentina en Gualeguaychú (Buenos Aires, 1921); La Vanguardia, Feb. 15-28 and May-July 1921; Estatutos de la Liga, Gualeguaychú.


On Patagonia, see Bayer, Los vengadores-, and Liga Patriótica Argentina, El culto de la Patagonia. Sucesos de Santa Cruz (Buenos Aires, 1922). La Protesta, June 14, 1922, offered a good description oí a free workers’ brigade. Agents provocateurs were described in La Vanguardia, Aug. 24, 1920.


For examples of these activities, see Brigada 19 y 21, La verdad, pp. 17—18; La Fronda, Nov. 21, 1919; Brigada 19, Libro de Actas, May 18, 1927 and Aug. 1, 1927.


No evidence directly links Perón and the Liga, but Carlés or other Liguistas could have been his teachers at military school, and he probably knew other officers who belonged to the organization. Some of his ideas on capitalism, the left, and the recruitment of women were similar to those of the Liga. On Fresco, see Ronald Dolkart, “Manuel A. Fresco, Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, 1936-1940: A Study of the Argentine Right and its Responses to Economic and Social Change” (Ph.D. Diss., U.C.L.A., 1969). The deepening partisan conflict in Congress during this decade would have also made it difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish substantive reforms.


According to Elsa M. Chaney in “The Mobilization of Women in Allende’s Chile,” in Jane S. Jaquette, ed., Women in Politics (New York, 1974), Latin American women in government and politics have leaned toward the task of practical reform rather than conceptualization. On Eva Perón’s role and image, see Fraser and Navarro, Eva Perón, and J. M. Taylor, Eva Perón: The Myths of a Woman (Chicago, 1979).


La Fronda, Nov. 1, 1919.


Oct. 24, 1919. Also see La Protesta, Oct. 29, 1919, for similar sentiments.


Liga Patriótica Argentina, Sexto Congreso Nacionalista de Trabajadores (Buenos Aires, 1925), p. 46. Chaney in “Mobilization of Women” noted that Allende’s government and the leftist press also expressed condescending views of women.


Justo P. Correa in La Capital (Rosario), Jan. 17, 1921.


Photographs were found in Archivo Gráfico, Archivo General de la Nación, Buenos Aires. I thank Robert Rotenberg for his ideas on political symbolism.


Two former Liga women I interviewed, and Monsignor Miguel de Andrea, a Liguista, for example, opposed Peronism, and undoubtedly many other Liga members did as well. The interviews were with Marta Ezcurra, Buenos Aires, July 6, 1981, and Elsa Meyer Pellegrini de LaFranco, Buenos Aires, July 17, 1981.

In a similar argument, Solberg (Immigration and Nationalism, p. 171) noted that Perón appropriated the Argentine elites traditional tool, cultural nationalism, to destroy its monopoly of power.

Author notes


Research was funded by a Fulbright-Hays grant from the U.S. Office of Education (1977) and a Summer Stipend grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1981). The author would like to thank Charles Bergquist, David Bushnell, and Kristine Jones for their comments on this work; they are not responsible for any of its deficiencies.