As Part of Women's History Month I thought I would take a look at the life one of the World Greatest Historical Figures, Argentina’s Eva Perón.
The Early Life of María Eva Duarte.
The exact date of Eva’s Birth is not clear and often argued, her birth certificate lists her date of birth as 7 May 1922 under the name María Eva Duarte, whereas her baptismal certificate states the date of birth as 7 May 1919 under a different name of Eva María Ibarguren.
It has been suggested that Eva destroyed the original birth certificate and forged a new document before her marriage.
One of 5 children, Eva was born out of Wedlock to Juana Duarte and Juana Ibarguren. Her Father was a wealthy man but already had a wife and family in the nearby city of Chivilcoy, and while Eva was still a baby her father left to return to his legal family, leaving his illegitimate family in poverty. Shortly after Duarte left the family, Juana had to move with her children to a one room apartment in Junín where the family women became cooks in Local Estates to pay the bills, although later the family opened a boarding house.
The Acting Dream
At the age of 15, Eva had strong ambition to become a movie actress, and with her mother travelled to Buenos Aires to follow her dreams, and on the 28th of March 1935 Eva made her professional debut at the Comedias Theater in a play entitled The Perezes Misses.
Following a few minor acting roles Eva found her first break in 1942 when she was cast in a role in a daily radio play which aired on the most popular radio station in the country at the time Radio El Mundo. Later that same year Eva signed a 5 year contract to start in a radio called Great Women of History, she would shortly become one of the highest paid actresses in Argentina an she was able to move into her own department in the exclusive Recoleta area.
In 1943 Eva helped found the Argentine Radio Syndicate and found herself involved in the world of politics.
Eva Meets Juan Perón
It reported that on 15 January 1944 San Juan was hit by a powerful earthquake which killed 6000 people, the Secretary of Labour at that time was called Juan Perón and he created a charitable fund to help the victims. As part of the fund raising he organised a Charity Concert featuring Radio and Films stars, and it was at this event where María Eva Duarte met Juan Perón for the first time.
In May 1944 Eva became head of the only permitted performers union, and shortly after started broadcasting a daily program dramatizing the accomplishments of Juan Perón, the show portrayed her as a women of the people, and served to popularise Perón with the working class.
The Rise to Power
Perón's rise in popularity hadn't gone unnoticed and his popularity with the working classes made him many enemies within the existing regime who became concerned that his popularity would exceed that of the current President Pedro Pablo Ramíre and Perón found himself arrested.
Six days later in the region of 300,000 people marched on the Casa Rosada, to demand Juan Perón's release, and their wish was granted.
After his release from Prison, and a church wedding with Eva on December 9, 1945 Perón decided to run to become Argentina’s president, and Eva was instrumental in the election campaign, using her radio show to promote her husband. Eva's Career had brought her fortune but she focused on her poor and humble background during her radio speeches to cement the support of the working classes for Perón. The Campaign worked and in 1946 Juan Perón was elected as president, and the extremely popular Eva began to be described by her nickname “Evita” which means Little Eva.
Eva Perón's journey from Rags to Riches was now complete.
Eva Perón's Charity Work
It was tradition for the wife of the president to become the head of the main charitable group in Argentina called Sociedad de Beneficencia. However key members of the charity did not approve of Eva's poor background and did not invite her to take the role.
This encouraged Eva, with government help, to form a new charity and The Fundación María Eva Duarte de Perón (later renamed Eva Perón Foundation) was created on July 8, 1948.
Eva supervised every aspect of the charity herself and within a few years the foundation employed 14,000 workers, including 6,000 construction workers, and 26 priests.
Every Year the Foundation distributed 400,00 pairs of shoes, 200,000 cooking puts and 500,000 sewing machines. The foundation also built homes, awarded scholarships, and opened hospitals. For the first time every member of Argentina's population had access to a health care system.
Over the years Eva had her critics but no-one could argue that she gave everything she had to the Foundation. She put so much work into the charity that on her untimely and early death there were many calls for Eva Perón to be made a saint.
In her life Eva saw every aspect of life, a powerful and strong women who inspired many to aspire to better lives, her Foundation did wonderful charity work and she even inspired the Andrew Lloyd-Webber Musical “Evita” which was turned into an international best selling Evita film staring Madonna.