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In Their Own Voice: The Women Writers of the Generación del 80 in Argentina35


Bonnie Frederick


Washington State University


The established anthologies and histories of the Argentine Generation of 1880 give the impression that the generation consisted solely of male writers, but a reading of the newspapers and magazines of the time contradicts that view. In publications such as La Nación and La Prensa, poetry, short stories, and essays by women writers appeared frequently, and novels by women were advertised and reviewed. There were even women editors and publishers heading up publications dedicated to everything from housekeeping to anarchism. In some ways, the women of the Ochenta were not that different from their male counterparts. The wealthy ones wrote for their own fulfillment and pleasure; the others struggled to earn a living wage by their writing. They believed in positivism’s program of material and moral progress; and they traveled as much as they could. But the women were not just echoes of the men. Because they were women, they led very different lives, which in turn produced a distinct narrative voice. Even when they shared a common theme with the male writers, they could not help interpreting the issues in terms of how it affected women. To study their works is to discover how women’s writing similar to men’ s writing as it may be -eventually diverges from the male literary tradition.

Though there were many women writers during the last decades of the 1800’s in Argentina, this study will focus on Elvira Aldao de Díaz (1858-1950); Agustina Andrade (1861-1891); Emma de la Barra (1861-1947); Silvia Fernández (1857-1945); Lola Larrosa de Ansaldo (1859-1895); Eduarda Mansilla de García (1838-1892); Josefina Pelliza de Sagasta (1848-1888); and Edelina Soto y Calvo (1844-1932).36 There women were numerous enough to form the first real generation of women writers in Argentina; talented enough to win respect from other writers and critics; and determined enough to form a network that broadened access to publication for subsequent generations of women.

The process of molding a unique narrative voice began before the women touched pen to paper; the taboos that defined a woman’s «respectability» influenced their private lives, professional careers, and literary development. This socialization process was a great obstacle in beginning a career. It was considered somewhat brazen for a women to draw attention to herself by publishing literary works outside of the «women’s magazines» or the family albums. Josefina Pelliza de Sagasta, for example, left her hometown of Entre Ríos because her neighbors were not amused by her literary ambitions. Edelina Soto y Calvo did not publish any of her works until she was 63 years old for fear of public criticism. Agustina Andrade complains of the mixed blessings of public success -and notoriety- in «Después del triunfo»:



A eso llaman triunfar: palmas y gritos,
algunos ramos de venal laurel,
y después... ¡el silencio y el olvido!
¿Y después? ¡Oh, qué horrible es el después!

Abrir el corazón, verter sin tasa
el perfume y la miel;
¡arrastrar la mirada indiferente
de las turbas sin fe!

Todo eso, ¿para qué? ¡Para que algunos,
con grosera avidez,
le claven los anteojos a la autora
y la aplaudan después!


(Maubé 67-68)                


Social mores of the time also prevented women from joining the nocturnal «Bohemia» of the men’s literary circles, especially those of the avant-garde Modernists. In his Autobiografía, Rubén Darío says of his bar-hopping with literary friends, «se comprende que la sobriedad no era nuestra principal virtud» (102). Photos of the

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nighttime crowd at Darío’s haunts such as Aue’s Keller and the Café de los Inmortales show nothing but male faces (except for the all-female dance band at Aue’s Keller) [Rivera]. Perhaps this social obstacle explains why women did not fully participate in the experimentation with Modernism, which was so often spoken of as «decadent».

Similarly, the barriers to public service for women (except in charity organizations of course) prevented women from being considered for the diplomatic corps, a post traditionally given to men writers and an important source of income for them. Virtually all the men of the Ochenta were diplomats or other public servants; none of the women was given such a post. Eduarda Mansilla did accompany her husband on his diplomatic posts in Europe and the United States, but her responsibilities were strictly those of wife, mother, and «extranjera distinguida» (Recuerdos 80). (Eduarda used her time in New York to gather material for Recuerdos de viaje, and in Paris she wrote Pablo ou la vie dans les pampas).

The same limitations on personal experience can be seen in the travel accounts of the women of 1880. To a certain extent, these limitations were not that different from the accounts of male writers. It was one thing to do wild, scandalous things while traveling; it was quite another to write about them. Public morals were very strict for both men and women, and though Lucio Mansilla and Eduardo Wilde could hint at forbidden nocturnal adventures, they could not write frankly about them. A woman could not even hint. As a result, there is much museum visiting, concert going, shopping, and taking tea. There are a good number of these travel books, because the journey to Europe or the United States was the ultimate act of snobbery of the time, and travel memoirs found a ready market in Buenos Aires (Schade). Eduarda Mansilla was a traveler who fortunately never reached jaded sophistication. Her Recuerdos de viaje (1882) is a perceptive and lively observation of life -especially the lives of women- in the United States. For example, she is appalled by the eating habits of the women in the U. S. and by their preoccupation with slenderness:

Esas mujeres que parecen vivir del aire, como nuestras orquídeas del Paraná, comen y beben cual héroes de Homero. Y, sin embargo, lo primero que preguntan a las demás mujeres cuando tienen confianza es: «¿Cuántas libras pesa usted? Yo no peso sino tantas». El mérito estético para ellas está en razón directa de su poca abundancia de tejido adiposo. No les falta razón hasta cierto punto; pero, a veces, las bellezas yanquis carecen de ciertas redondeces atractivas que tienen su razón de ser.


(41)                


As a good Argentine, Mansilla is surprised by how much seafood the North Americans eat (38), annoyed by their ignorance of Hispanic America (74), and both fascinated and horrified by P. T. Barnum’s museum (139-44). Mansilla is as quick to praise as to criticize. She speaks approvingly of the U. S.’s women journalists, citing both the quality of their writing and the money they earn:

...las mujeres tienen un medio honrado e intelectual para ganar su vida: y se emancipan así de la cruel servidumbre de la aguja, servidumbre terrible desde la invención de las máquinas de coser. Más tarde debía aparecer la mujer empleado , ya en el Correo ya en los Ministerios.


(115)                


Mansilla’ s frankness fails her, however, when she refers to prostitution (138) and the few children that North American women have, public evidence of the use of birth control (137-38). Eduarda, moreover, was too respectable and protected to travel where her brother Lucio went: the pampas of her own Argentina.

The extent of the limitations on a woman’s sphere of activities can be seen most clearly in the works of Elvira Aldao de Díaz. Her many books of memoirs are an invaluable portrait of the life of a woman from Argentina’s privileged class. Aldao tells all: gossip, scandals, funny stories, and what she wore, ate, read, thought, and said. Fortunately, she writes in a simple, conversational style that suits her subject matter and is a welcome break from the flowery rhetoric of the time. Her comments are often witty and worldly, and evidently also indiscreet, since her brother tried to buy up and destroy the copies of Recuerdos de antaño. However, Aldao’s life was utterly conventional for a woman of good family: no adventure, no rebellion, no doubts, and little education. It is hard for the modern reader to read Aldao’s works without wondering what this intelligent, energetic woman could have accomplished if she had had the freedom to enter a profession or even travel freely. This is an unfair judgement, however. Her merit is in recognizing that a woman’s life and concerns are worth writing about. Moreover, she has the saving grace of being able to laugh at herself, as when she buys an extravagant hat:

El modelo -como todos los modelos- acababa de llegar de París y bastándome ese salvoconducto le otorgué ciudadanía, sin detenerme a pensar que el modelo era del presente y yo ya pertenecía al pasado.


(Recuerdos 136)                


Aldao shared the male writers’ infatuation with Paris; for her and other women, though, this boiled down to the snobbery of fashion, as can be

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seen in her comments concerning another hat, an ultra-fashionable Parisian number that caused laughter on the calle Florida:

La burla que provocó en Buenos Aires, fue obra exclusiva det tiempo que tardan en nuestra Capital, en implantarse las modas francesas. Aunque se crea estar al día en esa grave cuestión, no se está. En cuanto llegan a París las argentinas, se evidencia ese retardo, sobre todo en los sombreros y especialmente en su colocación: siempre llegan a París con el sombrero mal puesto.


(138)                


Of course, the world does intrude even at the milliner’s. In one scene, Aldao’s hatmaker describes the terror of the bombardment during World War I while she adjusts Aldao’s new hat (140). Ultimately, however, the Paris of dressmakers and milliners seems very pale in comparison with the Paris of bohemian artists and nightclubs that the men wrote about.

The social mores that circumscribed women’s lives presented another obstacle when the female writer began to search for a publisher for her work. Though the first barriers to publication had been broken in the 1850’s by Juana Manso (1819-1875) and Rosa Guerra (?-1894), women still had to struggle and scheme to get their works accepted. Some general social developments of the late 1800’s, such as an increase in the number of newspapers and magazines (Lafleur 13-57), benefitted writers of both sexes. Other changes, however, were brought about by the women themselves. For example, two extraordinary writers championed the cause of women and helped organize the literary women’s network. Juana Manuela Gorriti (1819-1892) arrived in Buenos Aires in 1874, and immediately began sponsoring literary tertulias as she had done previously in Lima (Meehan 8). She founded La Alborada del Plata in November of 1875 (Sosa «Incorporación» 267), and as the magazine’s editor, she encouraged women to submit material. Clorinda Matto de Turner (1852-1909), arriving in 1895, organized a literary circle as well, and founded El Búcaro Americano (February 1896-May 1908) which also actively published women’s works (Lafleur 21-22). Invited to the all-male Ateneo de Buenos Aires -the excluded women had formed their own Sociedad Proteccionista Intelectual a month after the founding of the Ateneo (Lafleur 15)-, Matto de Turner gave an impassioned speech advocating greater recognition for women writers from all over Latin America. The speech was published both in El Búcaro Americano and in her collection of essays Boreales, miniaturas y porcelanas (245-66). These activities provided a focus and a meeting ground for women writers.

But most of all, Gorriti and Matto de Turner made money by their writing. This accomplishment inspired many women to try their hand at both journalism and literature, and a lucky few, most notably Emma de la Barra, made enough money to be financially independent. Moreover, the economic attractions of writing opened opportunities to women of less privileged classes; though poor women were still kept silent by poor education and outright prejudice, women of the middle class such as Lola Larrosa de Ansaldo (who had a son and mentally ill husband to support (Cutolo) joined their wealthy sisters in writing for the newspapers and magazines. Journalists were not well paid; however, steadier jobs such as factory work were not open to women, especially middle-class women. Rivera estimates that journalists could make between 100 and 300 pesos monthly at a time when factory workers received about 4 pesos a day (20-22). For a man with other employment options, these were barely adequate wages; for a women of limited opportunities, they were highly attractive. Novels, however, were still generally published through vanity presses, and thus were beyond the reach of writers who lacked money or patronage (Rivera 45-46). Women writers, therefore, usually preferred to write short stories, poetry, travel articles, or other short works that could be sold quickly and easily to the newspapers and magazines.

In this atmosphere, having the right family and political connections could still make the difference; Eduarda Mansilla, for example, was a niece of the dictator Rosas and the sister of Lucio Mansilla, general, diplomat, and popular writer. Agustina Andrade was helped by her father, the poet and editor Olegario Andrade, and her husband, the explorer Ramón Lista. Edelina Soto y Calvo published her first book of poetry at the insistence of her poet brother, Francisco Soto y Calvo, and his wife, María Obligado, sister of the poet Rafael Obligado. Money, of course, opened doors too. The very rich Elvira Aldao de Díaz traveled in luxury and then wrote about it in self-subsidized publications. (Aldao and her husband set the fashion in Rosario, buying the first private motor car and installing the first English-style bathroom [Sosa Diccionario]).

Even wealth and patronage, however, could not entirely overcome prejudice against women’s works. Both Eduarda Mansilla and Emma de la Barra, for example, wrote under male pseudonyms, a common practice at the time.

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This mask of a male name made their works more acceptable to editors as well as to the reading public. That there was not enough encouragement or patronage of women can be seen in the preface to Josefina Pelliza de Sagasta’s Conferencias (1885), in which she says:

...no diré las frases con que la mayor parte de los autores comienzan el prefacio de sus libros: -«el consejo de los amigos ha influido para decidirme a dar a la luz pública estas páginas que, sin esa influencia afectuosa, estaban condenadas a vivir en el archivo privado, etc».

Yo, por el contrario, sin influencias, sin consejos, ni mucho menos amigos, doy mi libro a la publicidad...


(7)                


Once published, there was often little notice or publicity given by critics to the works. The exception was the case of César Duayen’s novel Stella (1905), the best-selling work of the Generation of 1880.37 But when it was revealed that the author was a women, Emma de la Barra, the status of the work changed to a «woman’s novel». Nowadays, Stella is not mentioned in discussions of the Generation of 1880. The most widely recognized anthology, Noé Jitrik’s El 80 y su mundo, does not include a selection from Stella or any other work by a women.

Though women writers faced stricter social mores and greater barriers to their literary production than the men of their generation, the themes of the women were often similar to these of the men. One theme that both women and men held in common was the belief in progress. «Progress» was a magic word, used to invoke a vision of Argentina as a wealthy and developed nation (Biagini). The models were mainly Paris (for its culture and pleasure-seeking mores), England (for its industry and science), and, more cautiously, the United States (for its democracy and pragmatism). The «inevitable law of progress» -to use the Ochenta’s favorite phrase- brought electricity, new architecture, better transportation, and better sanitary conditions to Buenos Aires. The women of the Ochenta supported these ideals and projects in their works. For instance, Eduarda Mansilla’s «El ramito de romero» (1883) is a short story in which a medical student has a vision of eternal progress:

Como en los atlas de Lessage, veíase allí de un modo sincrónico, el camino de la humanidad, en espirales ascendentes, obedeciendo a leyes tan inmutables, como lo son las de atracción y gravitación en el mundo físico, retrocediendo en aparencia durante siglos, pero avanzando siempre. Vi la ley del progreso humano... Vi la llegada triunfante de la humanidad a una zona luminosa y armónica...


(76-77)                


Yet Mansilla draws a conclusion from this progress that male writers did not: the vision changes the young man completely, and he abandons his previous idea that women are meant to «contribuir al desarrollo vital y nada más; le contrario no es sino sentimentalismo enfermizo que pasará» (64).

Josefina Pelliza de Sagasta was also a proponent of the Ochenta’s concept of progress, which she, like Mansilla, understood to mean art improved status for women. Her poem «El siglo XIX» is typical of the generation’s ideology. Progress is the intercontinental telegraph cable, the railroad, science, and industry; the obstacles to progress are the Indians and the backward past:


¡Mirad allá! En la extensión vacía
Donde el casco tan solo
Del bruto americano se sentía,
Hoy se alza una comarca de colonos;
Y en la línea distante
Donde el salvaje su botín guardaba,
¡Hoy cruza como un lampo
El silbato del tren sobre la Pampa,
Dejando en el trayecto de su paso
El rastro hermoso que el progreso estampa!


(Pasionarias 31-34)                


She develops this idea of inevitable evolution toward progress more thoroughly in her book Conferencias, in which she traces the oppression of women from the earliest times to the nineteenth century. She angrily points out that women writers in other Hispanic American countries have been able to accomplish more than the women in Argentina, and she attributes this to their greater intellectual progress:

Hay en el centro de esta hermosa América, un grupo de repúblicas todas florecientes y bellas, siempre adelante en el progreso intelectual, donde la mujer es considerada de una manera superior, y alentada en la escala ascendente del saber y la ilustración.

Pena causa decirlo en cualquiera de esas repúblicas del ecuador... la mujer reviste un importancia que carece en absoluto, en nuestra tierra argentina.


(157)                


Pelliza hopes to shame Argentines by using the generation’s greatest insult: oppression of women is anti-progressive.

The theme that was most important to the women of the Ochenta was the need for improved education, especially education for women. Pelliza de Sagasta as usual was the angriest writer for this cause. In her Conferencias she writes:

La mujer del presente va cruzando el escenario de la vida ajena a todo desarrollo intelectual... Su campo de acción no puede ser más reducido, se puede hacer en cuatro palabras de sonido hueco el croquis en que se encierran los puntos cardinales de esa vida: la moda, el lujo, la vanidad, la ignorancia, y luego el fastidio... La instrucción, la ilustración,

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bastaría a salvarla, el hombre lo sabe, lo ha pensado, pero lo teme, por eso echa llave a su biblioteca y deja solo a la mujer el devocionario cotidiano!


(55-56)                


But few Argentines read Pelliza’s works, and both she and the other most vocal proponent of women’s rights, María Eugenia Echenique, died young before their careers had a wider impact.

Emma de la Barra’s Stella, however, was a best-seller that went through many editions. In this novel, a half-Norwegian orphan comes to Buenos Aires to live with her uncle’s family. From her Scandinavian perspective, Alejandra critically observes Argentine society:

Descubría una sociedad moralmente ineducada, en la que era absoluta la despreocupación de enseñar y de aprender a pensar; que era ésta la razón por la cual a pesar de la asombrosa facilidad de comprensión y el desarrollo de la facultad intelectiva de los más, tan pocos descollaban; por la cual, mientras en otras partes había tantos hombres superiores con inteligencias mediocres, en ésta había tantos hombres mediocres con inteligencias superiores. Se asombraba ahora mucho menos de que se consideraran todavía como cosas secundarias, el arte, las letras, la misma ciencia; de que la intelectualidad no tuviera su ambiente.


(69)                


The education her cousins receive reflects this mediocrity in its focus on etiquette rather than intellectual training:

...los padres se preocupaban de instruir, descuidando el educar, dos cosas tan distintas. Y así era que poseyendo corrección en los modales, finura y moderación en las palabras, carecían todos en aquella casa de la educación interior, que es formación, desenvolvimiento, perfeccionamiento de la inteligencia, del carácter, del corazón.


(69)                


Therefore, Alejandra becomes the children’s teacher; from this viewpoint, Alejandra (who is the principal character in the novel despite its title) is able to elaborate on both modern education and the nation’s ills that proper education could correct. For example, she laments that the gauchos are not incorporated into general society (213) and criticizes the materialism of recent immigrants (228). But mainly she deplores the lives of the women in her uncle’s family. Having no real occupation, they spend their time planning social events, gossiping, and conspiring to arrange marriages. Their malice eventually drives Alejandra away, but not before she has the chance to praise the freedom to work that the Scandinavian women enjoy (75), while criticizing Argentine women for their religious intolerance and superstition (48, 58) and for having too many children (59).

In addition to education, another preoccupation of the women writers was the importance of family, house, and household duties. For example, the house with as private rooms and Spanish style enclosed gardens often forms a setting of intimacy for the poet’s voice. In Edelina Soto y Calvo’s «Crepuscular», for example, the fading light in the house’s garden evokes religious feelings:


En esta hora en que se muere el Día
Y con su luz se esfuma la alegría;
Cuando en augusta calma silenciosa
La natura parece más hermosa,
Y el jardín entre sombra solitaria
Semeja una plegaria...
Ven, dulce amada mía,
Tierna Melancolía
Y enséñame a morir así callada,
El alma sosegada,
Como en brazos de Dios se muere el Día.


(Maubé 442)                


Silvia Fernández also feels the contentment of «Mi rincón»:


¿Dónde, con menor empeño,
Mejor suelo entretejer
Un verso con un ensueño,
Dónde, en fin, de sí, es más dueño
Mi corazón de mujer?


(Maubé 215)                


This feeling of peace and contentment within the intimacy of the house is distinctive to the women writers of the Ochenta; the male writers do not reflect this sentiment. Even so, the image of the house that inspires the women is not the one filled with children, servants, and noise; rather, it is the image of solitude, privacy, and doors closed against interruption. It is «a room of one’s own» (in Virginia Woolf’s famous phrase) where a women can pursue a life of contemplation. Silvia Fernández ironically presents the other face of the house image, acknowledging the conflict between her poetic ambitions and the chores of daily life in «Zurciendo medias»:


Deja que zurza las medias,
      Musa mía,
Deja que tome sus puntos...
Cual un diablillo me asedias...
¡Venir a exponerme asuntos
de elevada poesía!...
Deja que zurza las medias,
      Musa mía.
Sin querer te presto oído,
       ¡Tentadora!
Que me hablas de hermosos temas
Mientras remato un zurcido.
¡Incitarme, seductora,
A escribir altos poemas
Cuando me ves, en la caña,
O el talón, o la plantilla
De una media, cual la araña
Laborando una telilla!...


(Maubé 214)                


They often wrote of the changes occurring in

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family structure due to the upheaval of turn-of-the-century Argentine society brought about by industrialization and urbanization, large-scale immigration, a boom and bust economy, and growing secularization in both public and private life. Though all the writers defend marriage and motherhood as noble pursuits, they also vehemently advocate changes within the family. Lola Larrosa de Ansaldo, for example, champions traditional family values in her novels, but recognizes at the same time the role of economic stability in the integrity of the family. In El lujo (1889) the plot is a re-working of the prodigal son parable, replacing the son with Rosalía, a young woman who abandons her husband to go to Buenos Aires in search of the life of wealth and leisure that she has read about in romantic novels. The narrator entirely disapproves:

Olvidábase la desgraciada, de que la mujer que pretende salir de su propia esfera, menospreciando los sencillos goces de su vida apacible, para trocarlos por otros que no te pertenecen, está próxima a hundirse en el abismo lóbrego e insondable del desengaño y la desesperación.


(122)                


Liceta, the heroine of Larrosa’s Los esposos (1893), echoes these sentiments, as she tries to convince an adulterous friend (also led astray by the wrong kind of books) to abandon her lover and return to her husband:

La mujer casada no debe soñar con placeres que estén fuera del círculo honesto de sus afecciones, santificadas por Dios. Los placeres más puros y los más durables están en el seno de su mismo hogar, en el amor tranquilo del marido bueno y confiado.


(43)                


Almost in spite of herself, however, Larrosa acknowledges that poverty and hard work can threaten the family as much as excessive wealth. Though El lujo is intended to praise simple country life over the city’s decadence, it is hard for a reader today not to sympathize with the errant Rosalía’s rebellion:

...Rosalía soñaba con algo mejor que levantarse con la luz del alba, preparar la comida, arreglar la casa, cuidar de la huerta y del corral, y luego hacer encaje.

Porque las dos hijas de doña Amparo, siendo ésta pobre y no pudiendo costearse la subsistencia sin trabajar, hacían primorosísimos encajes, que luego vendían a una mujer, que comerciaba en este ramo, revendiendo con ganancia cierta en la ciudad, lo que en el pueblo adquiría por poco más o menos.


(17-18)                


After moving to Buenos Aires, Rosalía is able to resist the temptations of adultery, but financial speculation ruins her sponsors, and Rosalía is forced to move into the slums. Unequipped with any special skills or education, she almost starves to death before returning to the country, where her family welcomes the prodigal home. Rosalía’s fall is financial not moral, which leaves open the question of whether she would have been happy if only she had had a steady income.

One of the most interesting characters that Rosalía meets in Buenos Aires is María, who has written a letter to a wealthy woman requesting sponsorship for a publication:

Tengo una traducción del francés terminada, y desearía darla a la publicidad, para facilitarnos recursos, que libren a mi madre querida de los horrores de la miseria...! Pero, tropiezo con tantas dificultades...!

...Sea V., pues, mi providencia bendita, y logre yo, por su benéfico intermedio, la realización de mis deseos...


(114)                


María must have been an important character to Larrosa, since Larrosa was also struggling to support her family by her earnings as a writer, and she had to seek patronage for her novels from the wealthy. In the introduction to Los esposos, the editor asks for «la generosa protección de todos» for Larrosa «porque pesa sobre ella terrible desgracia»:

Lola Larrosa de Ansaldo, alejada del bullicio del mundo, por la natural timidez de su carácter, vive refugiada en su hogar, y luchando heroicamente con la suerte adversa, repartiendo su vida entre la labor diaria y el cuidado de su hijito único y de su esposo enfermo...


(12)                


Larrosa died of tuberculosis two years later at the age of 36. Of her novels, probably El lujo received the most critical praise, though not for advocating woman’s traditional role as Larrosa had intended. Instead, the novel earned its place in literary history for dealing with «el ansia del dinero, la especulación y la venalidad que entonces habían invadido un vasto sector de la sociedad porteña» (Cutolo). In this, Larrosa anticipated the theme that brought greater fame to Julián Martel through his novel La bolsa (1891).

For other women of the generation, the traditional duties of family, house, and church were not sufficient. They hoped for reform in the family structure and sought public outlets for their energies. Eduarda Mansilla, for instance, lists «la destrucción de la familia, tal cual hoy la conocemos» among the changes that will lead eventually to «la llegada triunfante de la humanidad a una zona luminosa y armónica» («Ramito» 76). Emma de la Barra’s Stella is an extended criticism of traditional Hispanic family patterns, though she, as all the women of the Ochenta, also defends women’s role as mother, teacher, nurturer, and civilizing influence. For example, the novel supports women’s participation in public

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employment, where they can use the skills learned by keeping a house to improve the business climate. According to the novel’s heroine, in Sweden

la mujer coopera en el trabajo del hombre, y su influencia ha penetrado en todas partes. Las casas bancarias, las oficinas de registros y correos, están amuebladas con un confort envidiable: es que sus empleados son mujeres.


(75)                


Josefina Pelliza de Sagasta’s Conferencias also defends and elevates women by attacking the religious heritage that degrades women’ s unique ability to bear children:

La maternidad no fue un castigo, una maldición, como lo cuenta la tradición en una fábula ridícula inventada por el catolicismo; no, la mujer fue creada con la intención sagrada de la perpetuidad de la especie humana, destinada a la generación, como un génesis sempiterno-creadora!


(46-47)                


Pelliza opposes political emancipation for women because she fears that it will reduce their status in the family (67-68). However, she seeks more legal protection for the woman within the family structure, advocating laws giving the woman equal control of the family finances and complete custody of the children:

El derecho sagrado sobre los hijos que llevó en sus entrañas, la enaltecería a los ojos de la familia, de la sociedad dándole autonomía moral y una individualidad de que carece.

Esa ley salvaría en muchos casos los intereses en peligro por la disipación del esposo, ya en el juego , ya en el galanteo; intereses casi siempre de menores que el padre deja a veces reducidos a la miseria, porque la madre débil y sin derechos , se dejó despojar en su carácter de súbdita-autómata o esclava.

Pudiendo la madre administrar sus bienes sin trabas ni dependencias la fortuna de sus hijos estaría asegurada y libre de la ruina en que se envuelven tantas familias.


(71)                


The family issues that Pelliza discusses link the reform of private life with that of public society. To change the dynamics of power and responsibility within the husband-wife relationship implies a change in other relationships as well, such as those of economic classes and political authority. Though this critical look at family issues is the most obvious distinction between the men and women of the Generación del 80, it is only one of many differences that define a distinctly female narrative voice and literary production. From the choice of genre to their interpretation of common topics, the influence of the simple fact of being female is evident in their works. Still, though the concern of the women of Ochenta for domestic matters sets them apart from the male literary tradition, ultimately both the men and the women are concerned with the changes necessary to create a new Argentina. The women’s differences, then, elaborate on the men’s themes and add to them, rather than contradict them altogether. Similarly, female literary evolution is not necessarily an opposing tradition, but rather a parallel one, following its own course, but staying near to male development. As members of their society in general, women writers are concerned with the common issues of their day. Yet as women, they interpret those issues in their own terms; their topic may be genderless, but their voice is always female.


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