Laura Méndez de Cuenca
256 pages, 6 x 9
31 b&w illustrations
Release Date:27 Mar 2018
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Laura Méndez de Cuenca

Mexican Feminist, 1853–1928

By Mílada Bazant; Foreword by Mary Kay Vaughan; Translated by Mary Kay Vaughan
The University of Arizona Press
Laura Méndez de Cuenca—poet, teacher, editor, writer, and feminist—dared to bypass the cultural traditions of her time.

In the early 1870s, when conservative religious thought permeated all aspects of Mexican life, she was one of very few women to gain admission to an extraordinary constellation of male poets, playwrights, and novelists, who were also the publicists and statesmen of the time. She entered this world through her poetry, intellect, curiosity, assertiveness, but her personal life was fraught with tragedy: she had a child out of wedlock by poet Manuel Acuña, who killed himself shortly thereafter. She later married another poet, Agustín Fidencio Cuenca, and had seven other children. All but two of her children died, as did Agustín.

As a penniless young widow facing social rejection, Laura became a teacher and an important force in Mexico’s burgeoning educational reform program. She moved abroad—first to San Francisco, then St. Louis, then Berlin. In these places where she was not known and women had begun to move confidently in the public sphere, she could walk freely, observe, mingle, make friends across many circles, learn, think, and express her opinions. She wrote primarily for a Mexican public and always returned to Mexico because it was her country’s future that she strove to create.

Now, for the first time in English, Mílada Bazant shares with us the trajectory of a leading Mexican thinker who applied the power of the pen to human feeling, suffering, striving, and achievement.
This well-documented, raw, and enthralling biography of a Mexican woman writer at the forefront of social and public change speaks to the work remaining today in our feminist historical scholarship to make women’s voices heard.’—Cristina Devereaux Ramírez, author of Occupying Our Space: The Mestiza Rhetorics of Mexican Women Journalists and Activists, 1875–1942
‘This outstanding biography brings to life the Bohemian Laura Méndez de Cuenca as well as the Mexican society and culture of her time. Bazant provides fascinating and significant information on the daily lives of artists, intellectuals, women, mothers, and families in the midst of urban change, modern developments, and political upheaval through revolution.’—William H. Beezley, co-author of Mexico: The Essentials

‘In a nutshell, Bazant educates us about a creative mind: not only a writer, but a woman who worked in the educational system and believed in its potential to transform society.’–Lourdes Parra-Lazcano, Bulletin of Spanish Studies
Mílada Bazant is a professor at El Colegio Mexiquense, A.C., in Zinacantepec, Mexico. A prolific author and editor, her most recent publications are Laura Méndez de Cuenca: mujer indómita y moderna (1853­–1928). Vida cotidiana y entorno educativo and Historia de la educación durante el Porfiriato, México.
Foreword by Mary Kay Vaughan
Introduction: Toward a Biographical Paradigm

1. Birth of an Artist and a Nation
2. Change or Die
3. The Romantic, the Modern, the Sublime
4. Between Life and Death
5. The Air of the Province and Providence in the Air
6. Laura in San Francisco
7. Return to the Homeland
8. The Best of Times and the Worst of Times
9. Taking on New Challenges
10. From Heaven to Hell
11. Passion, Mistreatment, and Destiny

Appendix: Ponderings on Feminism by Laura Méndez de Cuenca
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