In this dissertation I investigate the role of Chilean author Gabriela Mistral, Argentine Victoria Ocampo, and Brazilian Cecília Meireles in order to open a space for women in the Latin American intelligentsia of their time, a territory that was predominantly masculine. I propose that these three feminist writers and public intellectuals deployed strategies of self-representation to avoid being discriminated against because of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or social class. For instance, Mistral apparently desexualizes herself and creates a new maternal image; Ocampo represents herself as a cultural bridge between Argentina, Europe, and the United States; and Meireles sublimates androgyny in order to subvert gender binaries and boundaries. The intellectual friendships that developed among these women, the tensions that emerged between them and their governments, their struggles against political impositions and masculine dominance, and the establishment of intellectual networks at the international level, are the main topics of this study.
Thus, I examine the tensions between the private and public realms, especially in regard to the themes of sexuality and desire conflicting with the public persona that they embodied. I investigate, moreover, how, through their journeys, these writers were not only creating or establishing intellectual networks, but also, searching for a perspective from which to speak beyond a subaltern position. I dedicate a chapter to the poetics and politics of education. Among other aspects, I analyze the role that Mistral and Meireles played in the educational reforms of Mexico and Brazil, respectively, as well as the repercussions of Ocampo’s intervention in the cultural politics of Argentina. I discuss topics related to the body and biopolitics, national borders and cosmopolitanism, as well as nomadism and feminism, thereby articulating the creation of the female public intellectual in the Southern Cone, at a time in which women did not even have the right to vote.