his is astudy offeminists and a feminist movement in Cuba between
It explains how a small group of women helped to
shape broad legal reforms in only thirty-five years. At the same time-it
describes the version offeminism that these women adopted, with
internal contradictions, and contrasts it to the model offeminism North
Americans were transporting to Cuba. It emphasizes the mentalite of
Cuban protagonists in the struggle for women's rights as well as the
surrounding events that enhanced their power to mold national values.
In short, this study attempts to portray the Cuban feminist movement in
its nationalist context and in its own words. It also demonstrates how
feminism, emerging in Cuban society during the formative years of the
republican period, drew from traditional notions of femininity and a
rejection of gender equality to advance a cause that assumed that
women's roles were necessary for social progress.
Histories of feminism have progressed from those that concentrated
only on declared feminists and their campaigns to those that acknowl-
edge the reformist efforts of women outside feminist circles. Breaking
down the woman's movement into its components and constituents, or
deconstructing feminism, has preoccupied North American women's
historians for the last decade. As a result, we know that there are many
interpretations offeminism and many women activists who did not call
themselves feminists who nevertheless promoted women's causes and
rebelled against social injustice.
Nancy Catt and Paula Baker demonstrate how North American
women, motivated among other things by domestic values, were consis-
tently active in political and community life. That is, women's orienta-
tions in the home fed their sense of social action. By the nineteenth
century women were involving themselves in slave emancipation and
temperance, both moral issues appropriate for domestic, feminine in-
volvement. The woman's movement that emerged at Seneca Falls in
drew from the struggle to emancipate slaves because in that struggle
women saw the parallel between their own conditions and the noncit-
izenship of slaves and because they had learned to organize a popular
movement. The politics of domesticity were central to the woman's
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