Sor Juana de la Cruz (1648-1695)
Born and raised near Mexico City, Juana was the illegitimate daughter of a Spanish Army officer and a Criollo woman. She showed an interest in learning early on. At the age of 3, Juana followed her older sister to school and convinced her sister’s teacher to show her how to read. By the time she was 13, she had learned math, logic, Latin and the Aztec language of Nahuatl.
When she was 16, Juana joined the Mexico City court of Vicereine Leonor Carreto and Viceroy Antonio Sebastián de Toledo. The couple was so impressed by her learnedness that they invited theologians, jurists, and philosophers to quiz Juana. Such adroit answers from such a young woman impressed the scholars and Juana became an intellectual celebrity at court renowned for her poetry.
Juana received numerous marriage proposals, but at the age of 20 she chose to enter the convent. Convents were often havens for intellectually inclined women at this time and Juana began to collect a personal library of over 4,000 books.
Juana wrote extensively, from literary poems to plays to carols to intellectual critiques. Her writings often focused on feminist themes, such as the hypocrisy of men who condemn prostitutes publicly while paying for their services privately (Sátira filosófica).
Problem arose in 1690 when a letter was published attacking Juana’s unladylike interest in science. Juana’s response drew on history and theology to defend the intellectual rights of women. Long supported by influential women and Jesuit priests, Juana quickly found herself a pariah when church officials censured her letter. The Counter Reformation and the Spanish Inquisition had made challenging religious officials dangerous and in 1696 Juana decided to stop writing. Two years later, she died from the plague after nursing her sick sisters.
Although few of her works survive, Juana was internationally known during her lifetime and remains a pivotal figure in Mexican literature.
Thanks to astroziggy for the suggestion.