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Movimiento Pro-Emancipación de la Mujer Chilena

Movimiento Pro-Emancipación de la Mujer Chilena

Founded in 1935 by members of the Asociación de Mujeres Universitarias under the leadership of the lawyer Elena Caffarena, MEMCH advocated full legal rights and equal work and pay opportunities for women and pursued a broad-based agenda of social concerns as it attacked poverty, prostitution, and the high rate of infant mortality. The association published the magazine La Mujer Nueva. MEMCH's involvement in women's health issues led it to support the use of contraceptives and, within limits, access to abortion. Particularly during the years of the Popular Front, MEMCH organized women in many provinces into local committees and laid the groundwork for the Federación Chilena de Instituciones Femeninas (FECHIF). MEMCH's organizational tactics, strategies, and membership base later served as the sustaining force of FECHIF. MEMCH's ten-year drive to circulate petitions and stage street demonstrations was instrumental in finally gaining the right for women to vote in 1949. In addition to pursuing women's rights, MEMCH supported the families of strikers and victims of political oppression. Though nonpartisan, MEMCH had a leftist orientation that, along with internal tensions, led to its marginalization in the cold war climate of the late 1940s and its dissolution in 1953.

Named for the original MEMCH, MEMCH83 was founded in 1983 as an umbrella group to coordinate the activities of Chilean feminist and nonfeminist women's groups working to restore democracy to the nation. Though at first women's issues were not addressed, MEMCH83's first large-scale demonstration, on November 28, 1983, not only opposed the Pinochet government but called for peace and women's rights. In 1985 MEMCH reestablished itself as a nongovernmental organization. Beginning in 1987 partisan splits, sectarian conflict, and shifting political alliances resulted in changes in the groups claiming or disclaiming affiliation with MEMCH83. Since the transition to democracy in Chile in 1988 to the present day, MEMCH has joined a broad coalition of NGOs in Chile that continue to advocate for women's equality, sexual and reproductive rights, and sustainable development.

See alsoFeminism and Feminist Organizations.


Antezana-Pernet, Corinne. "Peace in the World and Democracy at Home: The Chilean Women's Movement in the 1940s," in Latin America in the 1940s, edited by David Rock (1994).

Baldez, Lisa. Why Women Protest: Women's Movements in Chile. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Churchryk, Patricia M. "Feminist Anti-Authoritarian Politics: The Role of Women's Organizations in the Chilean Transition to Democracy," in The Women's Movement in Latin America, edited by Jane S. Jaquette (1989).

Gaviola, Edda, Eliana Largo, and Sandra Palestro. Una historia necesaria: Mujeres en Chile, 1973–1990. Chile: Akí and Aora, 1994.

Godoy, Lorena, et al., eds. Disciplina y desacato: Construcción de identidad en Chile, siglos XIX y XX. Santiago: SUR, CEDEM, 1995.

Poblete, Olga. Una Mujer, Elena Caffarena. Santiago: Ediciones la Morada/Editorial Cuarto Propio, 1993.

Rock, David, ed. Latin America in the 1940's: War and Postwar Transitions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Rosemblatt, Karin Alejandra. Gendered Compromises: Political Cultures and the State in Chile, 1920–1950. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

                                Corinne Antezana-Pernet

                                          Francesca Miller

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