• Mon. May 20th, 2024

María del Refugio García: Pioneer of Women’s Rights in Early 20th Century Mexico

picture of María del Refugio García

María del Refugio García (ca. 1898 – 1970) stands as a pivotal figure in Mexico’s early women’s rights movement, contributing significantly to shaping the landscape of gender equality. From her roots in the Lake region of Uruapan, Mexico, to her influential roles in politics and education, García’s journey epitomizes resilience and advocacy.

Early Life and Activism

Born in Uruapan, García hailed from a family where her father served as a village doctor. Even in her youth, she displayed a passion for social justice, delivering her first speech in defiance of President Díaz’s tyranny. García’s radical oratory skills quickly gained her renown as a fearless speaker.

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Advocacy for Social Change

In the 1934 Mexican congress, García embraced Marxist principles, linking prostitution to poverty and emphasizing the need for systemic change. Her advocacy extended to grassroots efforts to alleviate poverty, promote education for women, and ensure equal pay for equal work.

The Sole Front for Women’s Rights

A defining moment came in 1935 when García co-founded the Sole Front for Women’s Rights. This organization, boasting a membership of 50,000 women across 800 groups, spearheaded campaigns for suffrage, political representation, and amendments to the civil and agrarian codes.

The 1937 Election and Hunger Strike

García’s commitment to change reached a pinnacle in the 1937 election. Running as a Sole Front candidate, she won by a significant margin but faced gender-specific constitutional barriers. Undeterred, García initiated an 11-day hunger strike, compelling President Lázaro Cárdenas to promise a constitutional amendment.

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Legislative Victory and Continued Advocacy

President Cárdenas fulfilled his promise by amending Article 34, granting women full citizenship in December 1937. García’s legacy persisted through her unwavering dedication to women’s rights, extending to worker’s rights, indigenous women’s empowerment, and support for unemployed women.

Educator and Ideologue

García’s influence transcended politics into education. She taught at La Huerta Agricultural School, imparting seminars on scientific materialism and radical ideologies, leaving an indelible mark on the minds of aspiring change-makers.

Legacy and Recognition

Despite facing potential destitution, García’s legacy endures as one of Mexico‘s most genuinely popular women. While she may be primarily found in specialized books on early 20th-century Mexican history, her impact on women’s rights reverberates through the ages.

In commemorating María del Refugio García, we recognize a pioneer who fearlessly navigated the turbulent waters of societal change, leaving an indomitable mark on Mexico’s quest for women’s rights.

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The 75th Legislature pays tribute to María del Refugio García Martínez; inscribing her name in golden letters

García Martínez devoted her life to defending women’s political rights; she is an exemplary figure
Morelia, Michoacán, October 17, 2022 – For her life dedicated to defending women’s political rights, the name of María del Refugio García Martínez was inscribed in golden letters at the State Congress headquarters, in a tribute offered by the 75th Legislature of Michoacán on this day.

María del Refugio was an outstanding Michoacán feminist who participated with courage and determination in the struggle, stated the president of the Directing Board, Julieta García Zepeda, in her welcoming message.

During the civic ceremony where the name “María del Refugio García Martínez” was unveiled, inscribed in golden letters on the Frontispiece of Honor of the Legislative Chamber, before representatives of the Executive and Judicial powers; mayors, officials, and special guests, Deputy María de la Luz Núñez Ramos emphasized the importance of paying tribute to a Michoacán woman recognized for her tireless suffragist fight for women.

“The Congress of Michoacán celebrates a historic act of justice by honoring the figure and memory of María del Refugio García Martínez, ‘Cuca García,’ a woman of gold, as well as the struggle of women who, alongside her, before and after, continue to advocate for the rights and freedoms of Mexican women, in all aspects and spaces of public and private life in the country,” noted the legislator.

Recounting her contributions, the president of the Substantive Equality and Gender Commission mentioned that, as a rural teacher, she was part of the Vasconcelist project; as a political activist, she joined the causes of the Mexican Revolution with Madero and later with Carranza, contributing to the fulfillment of the postulates of the 1917 Constitution alongside generals Lázaro Cárdenas and Francisco Múgica.

Similarly, she led the demands of the feminist struggle of her time for equity, inclusion, respect, and equality. Thus, her powerful figure stands out among the pioneers of feminism and constitutes an undisputed reference for independent candidacies in the country, she pointed out.

“Her suffragist struggle resulted in the conquest of women’s political rights, particularly their right to be elected to popularly elected positions; it was the conquest of full citizenship for all of us; if today, women make up the majority in the local Congress, it is thanks to the heroism and vision of gender companions like Cuca García,” she finally emphasized.


Mbiydze is a web and graphic designer, digital marketer, and founder of a group of companies including CHEETAH CAMEROON, MBIYDZELA DIGITAL and PULSEBEAT ENTERTAINMENT  He is an ambitious entrepreneur with experience in various fields.
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