White Women, Indian Women: Race, Class, and Gender in Ecuador's Indian Movement

Prepared for delivery at the 1998 meeting of the Conference on Latin American History (CLAH), Seattle, Washington, January 9-11, 1998.


This paper examines the role of women in the formation of Indigenous and peasant organizations in the canton of Cayambe in the northern Ecuadorian highlands during the twentieth century. In a society in which men traditionally held political power, women played a surprisingly active role in organizing movements for social change. Furthermore, white women joined Indian women in these efforts, and in the process crossed ethnic, class, and cultural boundaries. This paper highlights how women rose to positions of leadership in a society which formally barred them from positions of political power. Indian women were also excluded from power on the basis of their race, but this paper will examine how the nature of Indigenous society allowed them to emerge as effective leaders. It will also analyze how white and Indian women managed to overcome significant cultural boundaries in order to unify their struggles.

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