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International Women’s Day and Women’s History in Mexico

(Following is a guest post by Lucinda Grinnell, editorial assistant in the Hispanic Division.)

Image discussed: click link to view.

Dia internacional de la mujer (International Women’s Day). Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZC4-12017

Dia internacional de la mujer (International Women’s Day). Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZC4-12017

La Emancipación de la Mujer es obra misma de la mujer” (“the emancipation of women is women’s own work”) proclaimed the poster created for International Women’s Day, March 8, 1960. As seen in the image held by the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress, the poster celebrates the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). As the LC description states, this is a “poster showing a woman holding a torch, leading other women with flags and children with doves, to mark International Women’s Day and 50 years of women’s emancipation.” The poster also seems to be celebrating the recent victory of the Cuban Revolution (July 26, 1959) by portraying the torch-bearing woman with the number 26 on her shirt and centering on an image of what appears to be the Cuban flag. International Women’s Day, a commemoration of the struggle for working women’s rights that began in the US and Europe in the early 1900s, was first celebrated in Mexico City in the 1930s and continues to be commemorated with marches, protests, and other events today.

Soldaderas holding rifles. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-25760.

Soldaderas holding rifles. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-25760.

In Mexico, between the 1910s and the 1960s, women organized for democratic change, for suffrage, and for broad political, social, and economic rights. They often formed part of institutionalized, politically affiliated organizations and met in feminist congresses, as well as in local and national congresses of women workers. While women’s participation in the Mexican Revolution is well documented  in various sources, including many held by the Library of Congress (see the digital exhibit, The Mexican Revolution and the United States in the Collections of the Library of Congress, and women worked in many arenas to carry out political and social changes in the post-revolutionary period, Mexican women did not get the right to vote until 1953. There is very little written about women organizing student movements between 1953 and the 1968, after which a new surge of politically autonomous feminist organizing began.

The poster described above is particularly remarkable because so little has been documented from or written about this time period. Two pamphlet collections, available on microform and microfilm at the Library of Congress, are good starting points to research and view more primary sources of women’s movements in 20th-century Mexico. See “Latin American and Iberian pamphlets II, 1802-1992: Mexico: Mexican women pamphlets” and “Mexican and Central American political and social ephemera, 1980-1991: Mexican social conditions: Women’s movements in Mexico pamphlets.” Also of interest are multilingual posters from other countries, including the US, commemorating International Women’s Day. Click here to view images from the Prints and Photographs Division related to International Women’s Day.

5th Lesbian March, Mexico City, March 2011. Photo courtesy of Lucy Grinnell.

5th Lesbian March, Mexico City, March 2011. Photo courtesy of Lucy Grinnell.

In recent years, International Women’s Day celebrations have continued in force in Mexico and have been organized around themes of ending feminicide, violence against women, and advancing the rights of marginalized women, such as indigenous, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-women. Marches for lesbian visibility and rights also occurred during the month of March for a number of years. This year, many Mexican women are planning to participate in the international women’s strike currently being organized for March 8th when activists will condemn physical, economic, verbal, and psychological violence against women and  demand protection of women’s reproductive and human rights.

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