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Women's vote: How was the first time women were able to vote in Argentina?

The day women were able to vote in the country for the first time.

primera votacion

More than 68 years after women were able to vote in the country for the first time, we spoke to María Eugenia Álvarez, Evita's personal nurse, and Beatriz Baliñas, census delegate in the province of Buenos Aires. I knew their stories.

Although the law guaranteeing women's suffrage was enacted in 1947, real access to the polls was delayed by four years. Throughout this process, women's participation in the public sphere and in the Argentine political scene increased like a whirlwind.

On 11 November 1951, after four years of intense registration campaign, more than 3,500,000 women voted in the country for the first time.

Beatriz Baliñas was a census delegate in the province of Buenos Aires, and María Eugenia Álvarez, regent of the School of Nursing and Personal Nurse of Eva Perón. Very young women who, almost without realizing it, were protagonists of a key historical period linked to their gender's participation in the political scene. These are their stories.

Beatriz, the census delegate

Before, during and after Law No. 13.010 was passed, a structure supported by women was deployed that sealed one of the ways of doing politics from the bases of Peronism: women's civic centres, coordinated by census delegates and sub-delegates.

“ I was the census delegate of the Peronist Women's Party (PPF) Wilde-Avellaneda. When they chose me, I couldn't believe it. I was 14, 15 years old and everything Wilde was mine, from Mitre right to Calchaquí. I started at eight in the morning and it was eight o'clock in the evening and walked down the street, without eating, walking to complete an block, and two, and three... I never tired,” recalls 60 years later Beatriz Baliñas, from her home in Caballito. “She was the girl of the Party, that's why Evita loved me so much.”

The  Peronist  Women's Party was founded in July 1949, and it was  Eva Perón  herself who elected the delegates from each district. Having no prior political experience was a quality, since Eva sought to make her delegates as far as possible from the vices of traditional politics, even alerting them that they would not be influenced or advised by the men of the party.

“I became a Peronist for my sisters, and at the age of 16 she was the head of my female basic unit. My secretary was the wife of national deputy José Quevedo. Incredible! I was a baby and my secretary was the wife of a deputy! My mom bought me those tailor suits and combed me with my hair tipped, blonde, and I felt Evita. He went and came to La Plata, carrying dozens of carpetones, because at that time he had to make five chips to affiliate people!”.

In principle, the census delegates were responsible for knowing how many Peronist women sympathizers were in the country. Then they continued to censor and register for the future election debut, at the same time, they put on the shoulder the management of women's civic centers, which functioned where they found a gap: in the house of a neighbor, in some unused shed, departments, theater, committee room, depending on the region.

Nearly 4000 centers were held in the country. Men had forbidden access. There were cultural activities, shorthand workshops, typing, English, literacy classes, cooking, cutting and sewing, and political training workshops, among other tasks. They were also responsible for primary care. While they were not formally so, they functioned as part of the State structure.

“ You do everything and everything seems little to you. I was in every meeting, on the street, enumerating, in the basic unit, at acts. I think that censist job was all my life. Maybe it wasn't so much, but how much I enjoyed it!”

Beatriz worked tirelessly until she arrived on November 11, 1951. That morning she went with her sisters and cousins, who were communists, to the Maria Auxiliadora convent in Barracas, where the voting station was waiting for her and a reality she had wanted to deny.

“ We all went together, I lined up with them and I was crying like crazy at the door. I was 17 years old... And you had to be 18 years old to vote! I had no comfort or civic notebook,” he says.

The Perón-Quijano formula was victorious in the elections. Women exceeded men in all districts by Peronist votes. They also occupied seats: 23 deputies and six national senators. Along with the provincial legislators, a total of 109 women elected were elected. Although men remained an important majority, in 1953 a woman was appointed First Vice-President of the Chamber of Deputies: Delia Parodi, one of the first women in the world to hold such a high level of office.

Maria Eugenia, Evita's nurse

The last minutes of her life, Eva Perón spent them in the company of a woman, Maria Eugenia Álvarez, her nurse. María Eugenia lives in Longchamps, in the company of her dog Yulisa and her sister, who lives in the chalet on the corner. Its neighborhood is called Los Alamos and it was one of the first housing plans to be built during the first Peronist management. “I just found out, see what a chance I just came to end up living here.”

“ I lived one block from Pueyrredón and one from Las Heras, where Recoleta begins. I didn't have a Peronist neighbor, remember. I was not interested in politics anyway. I was never a Peronist. I was one more Argentine nurse, who had to attend an exceptional being like Mrs. Eva Perón was.”

One morning in 1950, Maria Eugenia was doing healings to a patient, when one of the nuns at Rivadavia Hospital announced that the Director wanted to talk to her. Maria Eugenia went to Dr. Bengolea's office, who announced that the next day she would pick her up a presidential car to take care of the wife of the President of the Nation.

Maria Eugenia rejected the task, arguing that there were nurses with much more experience. But the doctor said, “You're going because I command you, just as Perón imposed on me the address of this hospital.”

“When I arrived, the lady was asleep. She had porcelain skin, she looked angeled. She had surgery for appendicitis, and I had to do regular checks on her. I felt calm because I knew I was well prepared for the task. For two years I took care of her, without almost moving on her side.”

When Maria Eugenia began her studies, there was still no school of nurses “May 7” created by the Eva Perón Foundation in early 1948. “One afternoon, the lady, who was no longer well, calls me and says, 'Look, Maria Eugenia, you're going to have to take care of the Nurses' School, and Mrs. Parodi is going to have to take over the Peronist Women's Party. You are two very serious women, with no other interests hidden behind your personalities. So as of today, you are the Regent of School. ' Mama, my mother!I thought, and right away I got to work.”

“Girls from all Argentine provinces and neighboring countries came to the School. We had a morning shift, afternoon shift and boarding school. The doctors were admired of nursing practices. By our example, we shut our mouths to bad tongues. They said that Evita's nurses were all prostitutes and, in that case, I was the older prostitute,” Maria Eugenia laughs loud. “Because of the level of excellence that the School reached, many doctors came out to defend it when the Liberating Revolution came.”

In the evenings, there were frequent conversations between Maria Eugenia and Evita about the importance of women's vocational training, but above all, the fate of children and the elderly.

“'Who will cater for the old people and my children?Maria Eugenia', the lady said to me. I swallowed saliva and said, 'Why do you think that, ma'am? In a week or two, you are already going to be in response, taking care of your old men and your children. ' That's where I understood what Eva Perón was. And that I never understood anything about politics.”

In 1951, Maria Eugenia, like so many other women, voted for the first time. He went into the dark room, voted for Perón, and when his civic notebook was returned, he dropped a picture of Evita inside. “They cancelled my vote! And I thought, how do I tell the lady this? When I arrived at the residence, I said, 'Oh, Mrs. Evita, you don't know what happened to me, 'and I told you. Evita looked at me, smiled at me and said, 'What is going to be done to her, Maria Eugene. ' I was still happy that women voted massively for the first time.”


Publication Date: 09/09/2019

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