Female Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela, 1786-1904

TitleFemale Citizens, Patriarchs, and the Law in Venezuela, 1786-1904
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsDíaz, Arlene J.
Number of Pages335
PublisherUniversity of Nebraska Press

This volume 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. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, the author 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, this volume 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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