A REBEL NUN – The First Feminist of the Americas

October 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651 – 1695) is a Mexican icon of feminism; it is believed to be the first feminist in the history of the Americas. ‘Sor Juana was an intellectual, scholar, celebrated playwright, mathematician and poet, rebel nun and supernova—a woman who defied the role imposed upon women.’
Her literature, written in baroque style, is centered on freedom, and criticized fiercely the sexism of her time. One of her poems stated “Who sins more, she who sins for pay? Or he who pays for sin?” Talking about the men who would publicly condemn prostitutes but privately would paid for their services.

Although she lived in a colonial era when Mexico was part of the Spanish Empire, she is considered today a Mexican writer, and stands at the beginning of the history of Mexican literature in the Spanish language. Sor Juana was a prodigious girl, she learned how to read and write at the age of three; by age five, she could do accounts; by adolescence, she had mastered Greek logic; and at age thirteen she was teaching Latin to young children. She also learned the Aztec language of Nahuatl, and she wrote some short poems in that language. She even tried to entry the university disguised as a male, but was unsuccessful.
After working and studying under the tutelage of the Vicereine Leonor de Carreto Sor Juana joined a Hieronymites congregation for it was the only place where female could properly attend education. Also, at that convent she could held reunions and be visited by her good friend and sponsor Leonor de Carreto.

Around 1690 she was involved in a theological dispute with Antonio Vieira, a renowned Jesuit preacher. He recommended her on a letter “Carta Atenagorica” to stop writing about secular matters and start writing about the divine. She replied with another letter “Respuesta a Sor Filotea” that her intellectual labor was not going to stop and she demanded the rights of women education.

Five years after that, in April 1695, Sor Juana died after ministering to the other sisters struck down by a rampant plague.


-Ana Paula Martínez Prado


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