Latin America: A Fertile Ground for Maternalism

  • Alejandra RammEmail author
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)


At the turn of the twentieth century, social policies in Latin America emerged and were shaped by maternalist views. Similarly, early feminist movements appealed to the idea that motherhood conferred superior moral qualities on women in order to demand access to political rights. Latin America is a mother-centered region due to colonial legacies, the long-lasting influence of the Catholic Church, and ongoing prevalence of a blood-based kinship system. Contrary to feminist predictions, today we are witnessing a comeback of motherhood, as mothering is being perceived as a more valuable but also a much more demanding task. This chapter argues that Latin America is a fertile ground for this comeback of motherhood, and that in spite of maternalism’s essentialism, it should not be discarded by feminist schools of thought and forces. In conservative contexts, maternalism could be one of the few legitimate ways for women to enter the public sphere. This chapter reflects both on historical research and on scholarship regarding gender in Latin America, and suggests the case of Chile as particularly relevant to understanding the historical and current workings of maternalism in a variety of social policies.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of ValparaísoValparaísoChile

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