The history of feminism in Argentina, as in Latin America, has more often than not been invisible, not due to the lack of its presence, but more so due to the conscious or unconscious refusal to acknowledge its presence. Historically, many rural women in Argentina have avoided upper- class and foreign “ feminist” activity in the country. The elitist structure and the foreign and economically unattainable studies of feminism in the 1800s and 1900s helped to perpetuate the division of Argentine women. The women involved in the Madres de Plaza de Mayo movement had grown up when the term feminism was mostly tied to philanthropic causes or radical foreign ideologies ( Mercer, 1998). Women in Argentina, and throughout the world have been taught the role of being a submissive domestic mother. It was often the responsibility of the domestic sphere that pushed many women into political activity in order to survive. However, in 1976 a military dictatorship took power in Argentina and created an environment of unmitigated state terror, where hopes to oppose the government were limited. After the coup the military leader, Rafael Vidella ( 1976- 1981), continued his promotion of capitalist and economic structuring, most notably with financial funding from the International Monetary Fund ( IMF) and the World Bank ( Swedberg, 1986). Vidella felt that the state must crack down on “ subversives” who refused to fall in line with Western Christian ideals. Propaganda campaigns were soon prompted to promote the home and church as important aspects of creating and maintaining civil peace. Subsequently, as Argentine women were 6 charged with the private and domestic sphere of life, they were delegated the promoters of and for a peaceful society. However, the military, while publically promoting the family and motherhood, privately intended to destroy it through a systematic process of National Reorganization. In six years, the military abducted, tortured, murdered and or disappeared 30,000 Argentineans ( Arditti, 1999). Following a mounting national and international outcry against massive human rights abuses, the military regime that took power in 1976 soon collapsed. One movement emerged after the coup that became synonymous with bringing attention to the mass slaughter and torture occurring in Argentina at the hands of the state. Made up of mothers and relatives of the disappeared, the Madres de Plaza de Mayo challenged the government on the basis of their moral authority as mothers yet they proclaimed themselves as apolitical. How the mothers were able to emerge in such a repressive state is what I hope to focus on by looking at theories related to social movements – specifically resource mobilization theory and political opportunity structure. I will also examine the Madres own account of their inception while touching upon the history of Argentine feminism and the socialization of women in this Latin American country. My interest in the Madres came about from examining social movements throughout the Americas. North America, more specifically Canada, is perceived to have a ‘ democratic’ state and the freedom of speech. It would seem then more likely that social movements would occur in great numbers in such an environment. Yet Latin America, which has suffered centuries of colonialism 7 and imperialism, has had a string of violent and brutal dictators but has witnessed considerable social movements. Rights and freedoms have been crushed under these dictators who often evoke state terror ( through mass slaughter and torture) to control the population. In such a repressive environment, one might think social movements have little to no ability to be sustained, let alone created. However, the opposite is true for both North America and Latin America. This is arguably due to many differences in not only history but also economic, political, and social conditions. Without delving too deeply into these differences, it was the awe- inspiring acts of deviance and courage on the part of many Latin Americans that captured me. In 2009 North Americans, compared to other countries have relative physical safety in questioning power structures. A long list of issues related to marginalization ( women, First Nations, people of color, gays and lesbians) are rarely given national media attention in Canada or the United States. Thus creates the illusion that social groups or movements rarely question these issues or that these issues are not important. In Latin America - where your life or the life of your loved ones can be the price you pay for questioning power structures- oppositional groups struggle for legitimacy and survival. It is my profound respect for social movements in Latin America that drew me to the study of radical social change in a variety of countries. However, the Madres de Plaza de Mayo sparked my interest the most. Here was a group of middle- aged mothers who questioned systematic state repression and violence. They had contradicted resource-mobilization theory in their creation and yet somehow were able to draw 8 international attention to their movement. Lacking any political or feminist inclinations, a group of women challenged a strong and violent military system. In order to understand how this was possible, I had to examine the theories and actions that helped bring Vidella to power, what shaped many women in Argentina’s lot in life, and theories behind social movements in repressive states. I lacked the ability to go beyond secondary sources for my thesis, so I relied heavily on books and articles related to the Madres, Latin American social movements and feminism. Marxist and feminist theory can be employed to explain the situation in Argentina as the military took power. A capitalist ideology was fully implemented in Argentina with the help of foreign powers, most notably the IMF and the Untied States government ( Pion- Berlin, 1989). As I discuss in Chapter two, Vidella’s junta, subscribed to ideals dictated by Western powers. It was through these that Vidella began his process of National Reorganization. Subversives were soon seen as anyone who did not prescribe to these predominately Western and Christian morals. To maintain civil order in Argentina Vidella subscribed to state terror. Chapter two will also discuss the history and the varying ideologies of feminism in Argentina and the position of women since Spanish conquest. Women were bound to domestic responsibility even when participating, invisibly and unequally, in the work force. The lack of positive and equal political, economic, and social opportunities for women helped sustain their place in the home. Understanding the theoretical 9 environment from which the Vidella junta and the Madres arose helps explain somewhat the abilities of the Madres to remain relevant. In Chapter three I examine the actions of the junta in order to understand the grave terror they created amongst the Argentine population. Vidella created a security apparatus that extended from the highest in power to the lowest ( Wright, 2007). The structure of the Argentine military, as with many militaries around the world facilitated the creation of unquestioning soldiers who carried out horrifying violence. Through propaganda and their ‘ secret’ involvement in disappearances of countless Argentines the junta hoped to maintain power and the political economic interests of foreign partners. Chapter four examines the Madres straightforward questioning of the junta’s public image and their private actions that resulted in a backlash the military had not expected. How the Madres were able to question the junta ( while enduring state violence and terror as many of their members and supporters were disappeared) is greatly linked to the junta’s own mistakes, the movements position as mothers, and their apolitical demands. Their lack of available resources, which can help create and sustain a social movement in a repressive state, did not hinder them because of the political opportunity the junta provided. As a result of the states use of propaganda, the mothers exposure and status of moral authority was raised which provided some legitimacy to their movements as they began to look for their disappeared children. As the junta was unable to provide valid answers or support to the mothers, the Madres and members in Argentine society were forced to question the state. The loss of their 10 children pushed the self- proclaimed, politically unaware Madres into the public sphere because the private had become public.