Eva and Juan PerÃ³n
Everyone knows who Eva Peron was, the mighty âEvita’ of popular culture, but most will be hard-pressed to remember Juan PerÃ³n, her powerful husband, and President of Argentina. When the wife is ultimately more famous than the husband, and without any elected office, then you know you are dealing with a powerful woman.
MarÃa Eva Duarte was born on 7 May, 1919, in Los Toldos, Argentina. From a poor background, she dreamed of becoming an actor. At about age fifteen, she moved to the capital Buenos Aires, and there enjoyed modest success in the theatre, and a little more success as a radio theatre actor. Her true vocation, however, came when she met and married Juan PerÃ³n, a colonel in the Argentine military, a government minister, but crucially, in 1946, president of Argentina.
Juan PerÃ³n was, of course, brilliant in his own right, but he was also mono-dimensional and without obvious charisma, and initially, Evita offered him some badly needed glamor. Soon, however, she began to appear less as an accouterment and more as a center of power in her own right. She used her position to advocate for causes such as women’s suffrage and improving the lives of the poor, but she also had a hand in the practical administration of the state, effectively running the ministries of health and labor.
Very quickly, Evita’s natural charm, good looks and phenomenal skill as an orator won her a following among Argentina’s poor. She seriously considered an invitation to run as vice-president in the 1952 general election, but realizing that this would be a bridge too far, she declined. Nonetheless, behind her husband, she campaigned vigorously, and when the results were in, and Juan PerÃ³n was declared the winner, it was found that a significant majority of female voters had put their cross in his square.
Perhaps Evita PerÃ³n’s greatest contribution came in later years. She died of cervical cancer in 1952, but her legacy remained and remains potent in Argentina. Argentina has, since her death, had two female presidents.