ollowing the extended wars of Cuban independence and the intru-
sion of political chaos that followed, a Cuban woman's movement
emerged, promising stability and justice. Given the small number of
women who called themselves feminists and the deep roots of male
domination in Cuban society, these women had every opportunity to
fail. But they did not. Their own acuity in managing political alliances,
their defmitions of feminism, and cooperation with men won them
progressive legal reforms.
At the
1923, 1925,
national women's congresses, participants
outlined a feminist ideology that made motherhood the cornerstone ofa
women's revolution. The idea that motherhood could inspire revolution
challenged Hispanic conventions that preferred women in homes raising
children, responding to their husbands' needs, presenting a pious and
chaste example for their children, and teaching their offspring simple but
strict moral values. Yet only student and labor movements elicited the
attention feminists did during a period of insurrection. Family laws,
suffrage, equal rights guarantees, education and social welfare laws,
rights for illegitimate children, and labor legislation changed to reflect
women's new status in an emerging nation.
Clearly, a number offactors contributed to the success ofthe feminist
movement. National sensitivity to Jose Marti's calls for social justice, a
general agreement to rewrite colonial legislation, political instability, the
overthrow of a dictator, and communist challenge to government con-
trol gave feminists opportunities to press their demands. They chose
their opportunities judiciously, and they were successful because they
presented themselves as moderates from the intelligentsia. They offered a
definition of feminism that preserved family and Hispanic morality,
helped women in a modernizing society, indirectly challenged male
authority, and left intact a class-based society.
Operating out of the relative safety of the privileged classes, Cuban
feminists forged a brand of feminism that was pro-women, pro-family,
and pro-children. They also supported reforms for working women so
that wage earners could earn a decent wage in healthy conditions.
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