In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gender during the Period of Latin American Independence

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Edited Collections
  • Websites
  • Published Primary Sources
  • Historiographical Discussions
  • Women and War
  • Masculinity
  • Gender Discourse during and after Independence
  • Gender and Art of Independence
  • Family and Politics
  • Gender and Law
  • Slavery, Emancipation, and Gender
  • Women in Post-independence Politics

Latin American Studies Gender during the Period of Latin American Independence
Sarah C. Chambers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0260


Independence is foundational to national histories in Latin America, defined for this article as former colonies of Spain and Portugal in the Western Hemisphere. Throughout the 19th and most of the 20th centuries, however, attention to women’s experiences during that period was limited to patriotic biographies of those considered heroines. With the growth of women’s history beginning in the 1970s, a few dissertations in the United States focused on women’s roles during independence, resulting in one monograph and a few articles. The field was more linked to social than political history, however, and most studies of women in Latin America focused either on the colonial period or on the 20th century. A few historians did analyze women’s status, particularly in family law, over a longer transitional period, from the late 18th century into the 19th century, that encompassed independence. Similarly, literary scholars undertook gender analysis of texts in the same timeframe. By the 1990s, feminist scholars within Latin America were overcoming institutional barriers, leading to a rise in works published in Spanish and Portuguese. Indeed, scholars within the region have undertaken most of the studies that focus on women specifically during the movements for independence in Spanish America between 1810 and 1825, and these publications have grown significantly with the bicentennial commemorations. Scholars in North America and Europe have also increased their attention to gender and politics, especially during the aftermath of independence, and they have added masculinity as a subject of analysis. The increase in scholarship was sufficient for some to undertake article-length overviews in the 2000s, and the time is ripe to reconsider larger debates over the extent and timing of changes in gender roles and dynamics. Most scholars argue that despite women’s contributions to the independence movements, their status remained little changed or even worsened within the new nations. While without doubt a rising ideology of domesticity for women occurred in the 19th century, the particular spaces for women’s agency merit closer investigation. Despite the considerable growth in the field, moreover, much research remains to be done. Brazil and especially Central America are underrepresented. Although studies of Indigenous women who participated in late colonial Andean rebellions have been done, much less work is available focused on Indigenous or on women of African descent during or after the wars of independence. For additional information on related themes, see the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Latin American Studies articles “Latin American Independence” and “Women in Modern Latin American History.”

General Overviews

Scholarly studies of women and gender during Latin American independence first appeared in the late 1970s and 1980s and initially tended to focus on national case studies (see Regional Case Studies). Likely for that reason, overviews of the theme for the region as a whole began to appear only in the 2000s once there was enough literature to survey. Brewster 2005 is one of the first works to provide a succinct overview of women’s roles during independence movements in Spanish America. Lavrin 2010 provides a broad analysis that also includes royalist women and extends chronologically to Cuban independence at the end of the 19th century. Davies, et al. 2006 undertakes textual analysis of ideas about gender during and after independence in South America, including Brazil. Zahler 2015 is notable for including Spain in tracing debates over women’s rights from the 18th into the 19th centuries. Except for Zahler 2015, which sees gradual improvement, most of these works argue that women’s condition changed little or even worsened as a result of independence.

  • Brewster, Claire. “Women and the Spanish-American Wars of Independence: An Overview.” Feminist Review 79.1 (2005): 20–35.

    DOI: 10.1057/

    An excellent overview based on prior studies as well as published primary sources (such as letters, speeches, and newspapers). For the Túpac Amaru rebellion (1780–1782) and the wars of independence (c. 1810–1825), covers the various roles of women, such as fundraising, hosting salons, serving as spies, and participating in combat. Includes examples from across the Spanish colonies.

  • Davies, Catherine, Claire Brewster, and Hilary Owen. South American Independence: Gender, Politics, Text. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846314117

    The chapters analyze gender discourse (masculinity as well as femininity) in the writing of both men and women, including Simón Bolívar, Andrés Bello, Esteban Echeverría, Mercedes Marín, Juana Manso, Delfina Benigna da Cunha, and Ana de Barandas. These essays encompass the period between 1800 and 1850 and notably include Brazil (but not Mexico). The framing introduction and conclusion analyze general trends, arguing that authority of the paterfamilias was increasingly strengthened.

  • Lavrin, Asunción. “Women in the Wars of Independence.” In Forging Patrias: Iberoamerica, 1810–1824; Some Reflections. Vol. 2. Edited by Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach, 541–565. Mexico City: Fomento Cultural Banamex, 2010.

    An overview of women’s roles as fundraisers, spies, and combatants by a pioneer in Latin American women’s history. Highlights the ambivalence of male leaders about the participation of women. Concludes that despite their contributions, there were few changes for women after independence. Notable for including royalists as well as patriots and the case of Cuba at the end of the 19th century.

  • Zahler, Reuben. “¿Y para las damas, qué? Liberalism, Nationalism, and Gender in the Hispanic World.” In The Rise of Constitutional Government in the Iberian Atlantic World: The Impact of the Cádiz Constitution of 1812. Edited by Scott Eastman and Natalia Sobrevilla Perea, 212–244. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2015.

    Traces debates about women’s rights from the late 18th century through the wars of independence and early nation-building, arguing there was gradual and subtle improvement. Notable for including Spain as well as Spanish America.

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