Serafina Dávalos (1883-1957)
Art by Molly Bergstrom (tumblr)
Serafina qualified as a teacher at 15*, completed her bachelor’s degree at 19, and earned her law degree at 24. She was the first female attorney in Paraguay and the first Paraguayan woman to complete a doctoral degree. Her doctoral thesis critiqued the use of biology to support sexism and advocated for the emancipation of women. Just one year after she qualified as an attorney, Serafina served on the Supreme Court (1908-1909). No other woman served on the Paraguayan judiciary until 1980.
In addition to her legal work, Serafina founded a commercial high school for girls and represented Paraguay at international women’s rights conferences.
Serafina is considered Paraguay’s first feminist. She died in 1957, four years before Paraguay granted women the right to vote. In 1998, she became the first woman honored on a Paraguayan postage stamp.
*For comparison, Laura Ingalls Wilder qualified as a teacher at 15, sixteen years before Serafina. Both were very young teachers, but at the time teachers were not expected to have a university degree so is more akin to someone today completing their degree and qualifying as a teacher at 20.