Alicia Moreau de Justo

Date: 1885-1986
Owner: Red Informativa de Mujeres de Argentina
Source Type: Images


Throughout her long life, Dra. Alicia Moreau (1885-1986) combined medicine and a progressive agenda of social reform in a tireless effort to bring equality and justice to nearly every part of Argentine society. At the age of twenty-one she was one of the co-founders of El Centro Feminista de Argentina and, in 1913, she earned her medical degree with honors from the University of Buenos Aires.

Moreau, a lifelong socialist, believed that feminism was a product of new socio-economic realities that brought women and children out of the domestic sphere and into the unforgiving workforce of capitalism. As taxpayers, women had a right to the vote as a means of defending their rights and representing female interests like education and childcare reform. A primary vehicle for Moreau and other feminists to express their views was Nuestra Causa a journal founded in 1919 that was edited by Moreau. Yet despite earning some concessions from the government (like a 1925 law regulating female and child labor), women would not receive the vote in Argentina until 1947 under Peronism.

A large part of emancipating women, though, was freeing the female body from a traditional culture in which women's biology, much less sexuality, was rarely discussed. As a social hygienista, Moreau advocated teaching young women about reproduction and their own bodies so they could make decisions that would protect them from the social and economic hardships of single motherhood and venereal diseases, problems that--according to prevalent theories--degenerated both individuals and society as a whole. A large part of the increased freedom to discuss female sexuality came with the opening of the healthcare profession to women. Certified doctors like Moreau broke the monopoly of male physicians over authoritative knowledge of sexuality and could use this crucial knowledge for issues that directly benefited women, both medically and socially.

Another result of the broadening sphere of professional medicine was the emerging field of puericulture, a kind of "scientific" approach to motherhood meant to engender the healthiest and "fittest" children possible. Thus Moreau and others promoted female education in physiology, chemistry, and hygiene so that mothers would be able to act as medical experts within the family and have the wisdom to avoid such external degenerating agents as alcohol and casual sex. Moreau and other feminists attended the First International Feminine Congress in Buenos Aires (1910) and the First American Congress of the Child (Buenos Aires, 1916), international scientific events that were the first steps of institutionalizing "scientific" motherhood in many parts of the world.

Moreau objected to the corruption of Argentina's government through many different regimes from the 1920s until the 1980s; even in her 90s, she participated in the protests against Argentina's Dirty War. A life of breaking down social barriers and fighting for human rights marks the scientific and political life of this remarkable woman.

Reference: Lavrin, Asuncion. Women, Feminism, and Social Change: in Argentina, Chile, & Uruguay, 1890-1940. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

CITATION: "Alicia Moreau de Justo." Red Informativa de Mujeres de Argentina.