Matilde Hidalgo: Who was the trailblazing doctor and women’s rights activist?

From Tom Parfitt, published at Thu Nov 21 2019

Matilde Hidalgo, the pioneering doctor, poet and women’s rights activist, is being honoured with a Google Doodle today to mark what would have been her 130th birthday.

Born in the Ecuadorian city of Loja on this day in 1889, she was the youngest of six children raised by her mother Carmen Navarro, a widowed seamstress.

At a time when girls were expected to finish their education at the age of 11, Hidalgo spoke of her desire to be allowed to continue her studies at high school.

Although her request was granted, Hidalgo faced prejudice in her community and was ostracised by her peers, with mothers telling their daughters not to befriend her.

Nevertheless she persevered with her studies and graduated with honours in 1913, also became a published poet, writing about topics including science, nature and love.

She went on to study medicine at university and made history by becoming Ecuador’s first female doctor.

After earning her degree, Hidalgo turned her attention to politics and was widely known as a passionate campaigner for women’s suffrage.

She announced her intention to vote in Ecuador’s 1924 presidential election by adding her name to the country’s electoral roll.

After being challenged by the government, Hidalgo pointed out that Ecuador’s constitution made no mention of gender as a requirement for voting, only citizenship, age and literacy.

She was then granted the right to cast her ballot, making her the first woman in any Latin American country to vote in a national election, a move that paved the way for universal suffrage.

In 1941 Hidalgo again wrote her name into history as Ecuador’s first female elected official, when she was voted in as a public administrator in Loja.

After her death in 1974 her hometown established a museum in her honour, while she was awarded two prestigious titles by the government, the Medal of Merit and the Medal of Public Health.