Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
© 2013 Catherine A. Raney
Drawing from oral histories which I gathered while living in Bolivia, this thesis tracks the start, growth, and development of the political movement led by women from the Bolivian mines from 1961 to 1987. This movement helped create a new political culture that recognized the importance of women’s participation in politics and human rights. Today, this culture lives on. Bolivia has not experienced a coup since 1980, and the nation’s human rights record has improved dramatically since the 1980s as well.
Prior to the mid-1980s, Bolivia was often under the control of oppressive military regimes that resorted to many different types of coercion in attempts to silence resistance in the mining centers, the national government’s main source of conflict. This uneven power struggle between working class activists and the national government motivated many women to challenge gender roles and involve themselves in politics. After establishing their political organization called the Housewives’ Committee, women activists organized and acted collectively to challenge political oppression and mitigate the effects of extreme poverty. They frequently employed compelling tactics, most commonly hunger strikes, to win attention for their issues. They also involved themselves in many other diverse projects and demonstrations depending on their communities’ need. Women’s political development resulted in a number of personal transformations among those who participated: it awakened a political consciousness and also enabled women to recognize the importance of their paid and unpaid work in the mining economy. These changes eventually altered women’s understanding of how women’s oppression fit into the broader struggle of working class activism by convincing them of the deep connection between women’s liberation and the liberation of their community. These transformations led to the acceptance of women as political activists and leaders, which continues in the present.
This work also tracks the United States’ impact on the relationship between the mining centers and the state. This analysis serves to remind us that as United States citizens we must be very critical of our nation’s impact; because of our ability to enormously affect small land-locked countries like Bolivia, we must also hold ourselves accountable to understanding our historical impact so that we can make informed decisions in the present.
Raney, Catherine A., "From Housewife to Household Weapon: Women from the Bolivian Mines Organize Against Economic Exploitation and Political Oppression" (2013). CMC Senior Theses. 591.