For many years, women suffragettes in Costa Rica had to endure ridicule, insults, and harassment before seeing their fight for the direct and universal right to vote for women materialize.
From Congress and from the press, criticism arose against the Feminist League, an organization founded on October 12, 1923 in the Colegio de Señoritas and which, this Tuesday, was declared meritorious of the country for its efforts in favor of the political and civil rights of women.
Even in political debates, a deputy who later became president of the Republic said that women were not citizens.
The fight was not easy or quick; The members of the Feminist League fought for a quarter of a century (26 years) against number 3, subsection 6, of the Electoral Law, which prohibited "politically disabled, criminals, imbeciles, crazy, insane" from voting , deaf-mutes, illiterate, insolvent and women”.
In an article dated Saturday, July 7, 1923, in La Nueva Prensa, an account was made of the proposal made by a group of women (who three months later would found the Feminist League) before Congress, in which they requested the right to vote.
The text, signed by a man named Guillermo Alarcón, attributes the petition to the envy of Costa Ricans for “North American customs.”
“A woman's mission in life is to procreate. The mother woman is for many reasons and for many reasons superior to the man. (...) The woman who has produced children is worth a thousand times more than the best writer, than the one who has only produced two separate newspaper articles, than the woman doctor and the best lawyer," said Alarcón.
That same newspaper published, days later, opinions of legislators alleging that women wanted to supplant them and that they wanted to repeat “manly scenes of American girls”.
Another legislator of the time argued that "women are called to be the adoration of men and, after that, the queen of the home."
“Their mission is to instill the faith in the children and see to the good governance of the house; but not transforming petticoats into pants, abandoning the broom and griddle, to throw himself into the street and disfigure his mouth by shouting loudly cheering for any candidate”, said another congressman.
The editor of that text in La Nueva Prensa said, at that time, that "that thing about the female vote is staggering in the Chamber of Deputies."
At different times, the speeches of politicians included calls to apply the reform to electoral regulations and, although at times men joined this fight, when it came to legislative debates the momentum weakened.
By 1890, President José Joaquín Rodríguez raised it; Years later, in 1913, Ricardo Jiménez did as well, and the deputy Álvaro Quirós, in 1917, as well as President Julio Acosta, in 1920, including the right of women to elect and be elected, at least in municipal positions.
An article in La Tribuna, on July 7, 1923, reacted as follows: “It is intended that our eminent Congress... abandon its laborious labors, to enter fully into discussing the much talked about issue of women's suffrage. With all our souls and even with what we can, we must protest that such a matter be brought to the attention of our Congress... neither now nor ever”.
In 1925, in a bitter debate to approve direct and secret male voting, proponents of the reform remained opposed to allowing women to participate.
The discussion on the female vote resulted in 24 votes against and 15 in favor, and there was a clash between Sara Casal de Quirós and the then deputy León Cortés Castro (who would be president in 1936).
Marta Solano collected what Casal said in number 17 of the Electoral Law Magazine, 2014:
“And it is necessary that the women know that the representative Don León Cortés said that the women were not citizens and when I asked him what we were, he said: -Nothing! -But Don León, I replied, nothing is nothing and we necessarily have to be something! to which she replied, in a contemptuous way:- Well, they are women!- As if being a woman were the most despicable thing in the world”.
Among the founders of the League, the recently declared meritorious of the country Ángela Acuña Braun and Ana Rosa Chacón, as well as Esther de Mezerville, stand out.
By 1948, Costa Rica had signed the Inter-American Convention on the Granting of Political Rights to Women.
In 1949, then, the constituent deputies finally recognized women's suffrage in the new Political Constitution, with 33 votes in favor and eight against.
Henceforth, new reforms have paved the way for equal participation in politics, such as the parity rule on ballots.
In the period 2010-2014, the country had its first female president, Laura Chinchilla Miranda, and today women occupy 26 of the 57 seats in Congress.
[ Six decades after women's suffrage]