Luisa Capetillo, Puerto Rican Feminist

Baruch BLS Professor Karanja Carroll found this article from Teen Vogue about Luisa Capetillo, one of our sheros whose story was the focus of scholarship by CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez:

“When we speak of iconic Latina feminists, a handful of women quickly come to mind: Dolores Huerta, Rigoberta Menchú, Sylvia Rivera, Eva Perón, the Mirabal Sisters, Frida Kahlo, Julia de Burgos.

One Latina that has been lost in this conversation is Luisa Capetillo (1879-1922). Years before Kahlo made a defiant stance by wearing a pantsuit in a family photo or De Burgos published a single word, Capetillo stood as one of the first Puerto Rican feminist writers who challenged gender norms, advocated for union laborers, and lived a life according to the words she preached. Yet not even a century after her death, Capetillo’s ideas and accomplishments remain largely unacknowledged.

Capetillo’s contributions as a feminist and union organizer were remarkable for their time. She wrote numerous renowned essays, published a newspaper, and authored four books that centered around gender equality, the harmfulness of the institution of marriage, and the injustice of social class. She even proudly went to jail for the crime of wearing men’s clothing. So how did Capetillo grow into such a rebel and vocal anarchist? She was encouraged by her parents….

Capetillo was 32 when her most important work, Mi Opinión (1911), was published. In the introduction to its English translation, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez explains that Capetillo is laying out the first feminist exposition in Puerto Rico and one of the very first in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the book, Capetillo writes about the urgent need to make drastic changes in “all structures of social and economic domination so women could be truly liberated,” including in the areas of work, education, marriage, and religion, Rodriguez noted. Capetillo highlighted the importance of women’s roles in society and in the home, arguing that women don’t have to choose between being homemakers and their civic involvement. Capetillo’s impassioned stance on the importance of gender equality and women’s suffrage appeared almost 20 years before Puerto Rico allowed all women, regardless of their literacy level, to vote.”

You can read the entire essay by Araceli Cruz “Puerto Rican Feminist Luisa Capetillo Fought to Redefine Labor, Gender Equality”