Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela, 1786-1904 (Engendering Latin America)

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9780803217225: Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela, 1786-1904 (Engendering Latin America)
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Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela examines the effects that liberalism had on gender relations in the process of state formation in Caracas from the late eighteenth to the nineteenth century.

The 1811 Venezuelan constitution granted everyone in the abstract, including women, the right to be citizens and equals, but at the same time permitted the continued use of older Spanish civil laws that accorded women inferior status and granted greater authority to male heads of households. Invoking citizenship for their own protection and that of their loved ones, some women went to court to claim the same civil liberties and protections granted to male citizens. In the late eighteenth century, colonial courts dispensed some protection to women in their conflicts with men; a century later, however, patriarchal prerogatives were reaffirmed in court sentences. Discouraging as this setback was, the actions of the women who had fought these legal battles raised an awareness of the discrepancies between the law and women’s daily lives, laying the groundwork for Venezuelan women’s organizations in the twentieth century.

Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, historian Arlene Díaz shows how the struggle for political power in the modern state reinforced and reproduced patriarchal authority. She also reveals how Venezuelan women from different classes, in public and private, coped strategically with their paradoxical status as equal citizens who nonetheless lacked power because of their gender. Shedding light on a fundamental but little examined dimension of modern nation building, Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela gives voice to historic Venezuelan women while offering a detailed look at a society making the awkward transition from the colonial world to a modern one.

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About the Author:

Arlene J. Díaz is an associate professor of Latin American history at Indiana University.

Review:

“Diaz has written a very engaging study that fills in the gaps in the history of liberal thought and the development of masculine imagery in the law. By engendering traditional Latin American political and legal history, this study contributes to our understanding of the limits of nineteenth century republicanism.”—American Historical Review (American Historical Review)

“This work is a rare contribution where gender dominates throughout as the foremost category of analysis, and where the voices of women and of men emerge in an analytically distinctive yet contrapuntal dynamic. It is challenging where it fails and where it succeeds. In sum, it will provide grist for serious discussion.”—Ann Twinam, The Americas (The Americas)

"Diaz's is a major contribution to the growing scholarship on Latin American women's and lower classes' role in the political culture and the transformation of their society. . . . Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela is an innovative contribution to the history of Venezuela, gender studies and state formation."—Aline Helig, Journal of Latin American Studies (Journal of Latin American Studies)

“This is an intriguing study that throws light on a little-examined aspect of nation-building in Venezuela as it moved out of the colonial world and into the modern age.”—British Bulletin of Publications (British Bulletin of Publications)

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