Matilde Hidalgo de Procel (1889-1974)
Art by Martha Han (tumblr)
In a time when most Ecuadorian girls completed their education in sixth grade, Matilde petitioned to attend high school. With the support of her family and the local principal, she was offered a place at Colegio Bernardo Valdivieso, the oldest school in Ecuador. Many members of the community objected, but despite their ostracization, Matilde became the first Ecuadorian girl to graduate high school in 1913. She went on to study at the University of Cuenca and graduated as Ecuador’s first female physican in 1921.
During the presidency of José Luis Tamayo, Matilde announced her plans to vote in the next presidential election. She petitioned the government and they ruled in her favor, allowing her to vote in the 1924 elections. Women’s suffrage was written into the Constitution that same year.
Matilde went on to run for election, serving as the first elected councilwoman of Machala and the first vice-president of the Council of Machala. In 1941, she became the first female candidate and the first woman elected public administrator in Loja, the city that had once ostracized her for attending high school.