Trayectoria educativa y prácticas asociativas de una tucumana de entre siglos: Margarita Todd, maestra normal.*


Marcela Vignoli[1]


Reception: 06/03/2015

Evaluation: 07/03/2015

Approval: 13/05/2015

Research and innovation article.




A principios del siglo XX la provincia de Tucumán asistió a un proceso de expansión de experiencias asociativas de diverso tipo, entre las que se destacan los ámbitos de sociabilidad vinculados al mundo educativo y cultural. También, es en este período que podemos advertir un cambio en aquellas prácticas de sociabilidad decimonónicas que en el terreno cultural y literario habían mostrado el predominio de una sociabilidad excluyentemente masculina.


En efecto, fuera en la búsqueda por perfeccionar las herramientas obtenidas en su paso por las instituciones escolares, o persiguiendo mejorar su situación laboral, lo cierto es que algunas maestras irrumpieron en estos ambientes y se insertaron en esta trama de sociabilidad educativa y cultural.


En el convencimiento de que las prácticas de sociabilidad constituyen excelentes puntos de observación para estudiar los alcances de la participación femenina en el espacio público, el propósito de este trabajo es a la vez reconstruir y analizar la trayectoria de una de estas maestras. Se trata de Margarita Todd, quien desarrolló una exitosa carrera dentro del magisterio tucumano, y, logró expresar alguna de las preocupaciones intelectuales y culturales de una época, en la que uno de los horizontes lo constituía el conocimiento científico con miras a la creación de una futura universidad provincial.


Palabras clave: Género, Sociabilidad, Cultura, Educación


Educative career and associative practices of a woman from Tucuman in between centuries: Margarita Todd, schoolteacher




During the early 20th century, the province of Tucumán witnessed a process of expansion of diverse associative experiences among which the social environments linked to teaching and culture stood out.  It was also during this period that a change can be detected regarding 19th century social practices that, in the cultural and literary spheres, had shown an exclusively masculine predominance.


Indeed, whether in search of improving the tools obtained in their experience in academic institutions, or in pursuing the improvement of their work situation, several female teachers emerged in these environments who became a part of this structure of educational and cultural sociability.


Convinced that sociability practices constitute excellent points of observation for studying the scope of female participation in the public sphere, this work aims to reconstruct and analyze the career of one of these teachers. Margarita Todd developed a successful career as a teacher in Tucuman and she was able to express some of the intellectual and cultural concerns of the time, one of which was scientific knowledge, with a view to creating a future university in the province.


Key words: Gender, Sociability, Culture, Education


Parcours éducatif et pratiques associatives d’une femme du Tucuman: Margarita Todd, enseignante d’une école normal d’instituteurs




Au début du XXe siècle la province de Tucuman a vécut un processus d’expansion des différentes expériences associatives, parmi lesquelles on signale les sociabilités liées au monde éducatif et culturel. Pendant cette période a eut lieu aussi un changement dans les pratiques de sociabilité du XIXe siècle, qui dans le domaine culturel et littéraire s’avaient caractérisé par une suprématie exclusivement masculine.

Or, quelques femmes enseignantes, au cours de sa quête d’améliorer les outils intellectuels conquis dans leur passage par les institutions scolaires, ainsi qu’au cours de ses efforts d’aboutir à une meilleure situation de travail ont fait irruption dans ces ambiances et se sont insérés dans ce réseau de sociabilité éducative et culturelle.

Cet article, qui part de l’idée que les pratiques de sociabilité constituent un excellent point d’observation de la portée de la participation féminine dans l’espace public, se propose à la fois reconstituer et analyser la trajectoire d’une de ces enseignantes. Il s’agit de Margarita Todd, qui a menée une carrière à succès dans le corps enseignant du Tucuman et qui a abouti à exprimer certaines ambitions intellectuelles et culturelles de son époque, qui a cherché parmi d’autres objectifs, la connaissance scientifique orientée à la création d’une future université provinciale.


Mots clés: Genre - Sociabilité - Culture – Éducation


1. Introduction


In 1906, a teacher from Tucumán (Argentina) proposed that the Círculo del Magisterio (Teacher Training Circle), an association that, for a year, had gathered the teachers of the province, sent “[…] from its members, delegates to the Latin American Scientific Congress that is celebrated every year” and that they “provide the means to continue a specialization to those members who showed outstanding conditions in a branch of knowledge[2].” That proposal was made by Margarita Todd, a graduate from the Escuela Normal de Maestras (Normal School for Teachers) in 1889, and she referred to the Latin American Scientific Congresses celebrated in Argentina (1898), Montevideo (1901) and Rio de Janeiro (1905). The latter had 839 participants from 17 countries. On that occasion, a total of 120 works had been presented, which reflected the different sections in which the conference had been divided: mathematics, physics and chemistry, natural sciences: anthropological and ethnological, engineering, medical sciences and hygiene, legal sciences, social sciences, pedagogical sciences, and agronomy and zootechnology[3]. In the meeting in Rio de Janeiro, it had been decided that the next event, to be held at the beginning of 1908, would be Pan American and that it would take place in Chile[4]. To participate in this coming congress was one of the objectives that, for Margarita, the teachers’ association of Tucumán had to consider as a way of inserting itself in a circuit that discussed topics on education, science, and health and technological advances.


What did it represent for this teacher to have the chance of taking part in an event of such characteristics? What was the idea of science that the teachers from Tucumán and its society had at the beginning of the century?


The trajectory of Margarita Todd is not a singular story. Through the study of her successful degree in the teacher training college of Tucumán[5], we can observe the process by which some educated women joined a social environment that had remained exclusively masculine until the end of the 19th century[6]. Without doubt, the interventions of this teacher expressed the intellectual and cultural concerns of a time, of which other educated women took part, and in which one of its horizons was constituted by scientific knowledge with a wish to create a university in the province in the future[7].


The purpose of this work, by delving into the educational trajectory of Margarita Todd, is to get closer the associative practices displayed by some educators who used the teacher associations created between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century as spaces to articulate demands for improvements in the education of the province, improving their qualifications as teachers and establishing a dialog with peers with whom they shared literary and educational concerns[8].


The expansion of teaching and cultural associative experiences at the beginning of the 20th century constituted a process that can be evidenced on a national and Latin American level. A vast historiography used in this work accounts for this phenomenon. In fact, Julián Guindín, who has carried out a comparative work on the different aspects of teacher associations at the beginning of the past century, has managed to characterize different Latin American experiences with regard to a number of questions, who organized these associations: what was the link with the power of the state, what types of practices these associations led, and, last but not least, what the role of female teachers was in these associative spaces in a context that was still resistant to female participation in the public space[9]. Another author that has inquired as regards these teacher practices, focusing his view on the union aspect of these associations, is Adrián Ascolani. His work has allowed for the systematization and identification of the different types of teacher union experiences in Argentina[10], to which their historiographical balances are added on the field of the history of education in Argentina[11].



It is in dialogue with these research projects and focusing on female participation in teacher associations that we studied the trajectory of Margarita Todd. We consider that her presence in spaces, such as the Sociedad Sarmiento [Sarmiento Society] (1882) and the Círculo del Magisterio [Teacher Training Circle] (1905) allowed her to, first, share and exchange cultural and educational queries with other people and, then, to articulate the different demands of the teachers of the province which led to her social recognition and prestige on a national level.


In order to carry out this work, we have analyzed different sources. First, we had access to a public opinion that debated and expressed ideas on the cultural and social climate during the period studied. This was possible through the reading of newspapers from Tucumán, such as El Orden (edited between 1883 and 1940) and La Gaceta, (edited from 1912). In the same way, the consultation of some cultural magazines published by one of these associations, like Sociedad Sarmiento, constituted valuable documents. Also, some members wrote essays or published the work of some female teachers in El Porvenir (1883-1885) and Tucumán Literario (1886-1897). Finally, the Registry books from both associations, Sociedad Sarmiento (1882) and Círculo del Magisterio (1905), allowed access to relevant information with regard to the meetings of their members, elections of commissions, motions, etc. This gave us the chance to come closer to the level of real participation (positions occupied in the executive commissions and minor positions in internal commissions, motions approved or discussed, participation in meeting, works presented, etc.) of the female teachers within these organizations.



2. Formation of a masculine environment of educational-cultural sociability in Tucumán


By the end of the 19th century, in the small province of Tucumán, in the north of Argentina, bordering the Andes, there was a noticeable economic expansion, mainly caused by the production of sugar cane, which attracted thousands of immigrants from neighboring provinces, extra-regional capital, technology, technicians, and qualified labor from Europe. This process is framed, at the same time, within the evident economic and demographic growth that Argentina experienced at the end of the 19th century.


The railway connections with the Pampeana region, in 1876, and a scheme of tariff protection in the face of competition from foreign sugar are two important factors that explain the success of the producers from Tucumán. No less important was the presence of local politicians in the process of the modernization and consolidation of the central state, which is seen in the presidents from Tucumán, Nicolás Avellaneda (1874-1880) and Julio A. Roca (1880-1886 and 1898-1904), two of the most remarkable figures in this process[12].



Urban growth and the increasing complexity of the society were an inevitable consequence of the economic expansion, which turned the capital of the province into the most important city and cultural center of a vast region. In this framework and accompanied by the national tendency, from the second half of the 19th century, the province of Tucumán witnessed a growth in associative experiences of diverse types. Within this complex associative map, the study of association that we can denominate to be of a cultural nature –popular libraries, patriotic centers and associations with well-defined cultural profiles- has allowed the formation of complex notions with respect to the associations in Tucumán and the identification of some changes in the patterns of sociability of the 19th century.


                          One of these changes is constituted by the access to what could be considered to be middle class sectors to education through the creation of national educational institutions during the second half of the 19th century. With these institutions, a cultural and social environment was generated among students, graduates and teachers, which was expressed in the creation of cultural associations and popular libraries located, at the same time, in a fabric of sociability that was more complex, where there were actors of diverse origins and concerns.


The foundation of the Sociedad Sarmiento (1882) by the students and graduates of the Escuela Normal (1875) and the Colegio Nacional (1865) allowed young people who had literary concerns to create a space of exchange with other people who had similar interests, without just concentrating on the merely literary. Without doubt, as the number of members increased, the interests of the new associates started to diversify, which ended up covering a wide range of topics, some which managed to become specific actions. In fact, the creation of a library in 1883, of a night school for the laborers at the end of the following year and the edition of two publications El Porvenir (1882-1883) and El Tucumán Literario (1888-1896)[13] were some of the projects that were carried out by the members of this association during its first decade.


The creation of this association gave way to the formation of more reduced spaces linked with professional interests, such as the Asociación Amigos de la Educación (1884), the Sociedad Científica (1885), the Centro Patriótico de Concepción (1894) and the Biblioteca Alberdi (1903). Apart from their link with knowledge and culture, their common feature was that these associations that formally appealed to female participation through their statutes were exclusively formed by men. In effect, women were absent in a great part of this cultural associative world, at least until the first years of the 20th century.



Even if we consider that these innovative spaces of cultural sociability were closely related with the educational world, we can see that there is no correspondence between the increase in female literacy and their greater occupation of positions in the educational field[14] and their absence in the educational-cultural associative world during the last decades of the 19th century. Actually, in the lists of members of the Sociedad Amigos de la Educación of 1884, there are no women either in the executive commission or as members. Finally, there were no women enrolled in the Pedagogical section opened by the Sociedad Sarmiento in 1902, which had 26 people interested in it.


                          However, as will be analyzed below, this exclusively masculine world started to change as the 20th century began to unfold.


3. Women break into a masculine literary world


It is not easy to characterize the way in which women started to become part of the Sociedad Sarmiento during the last decades of the 19th century. Although women were not formal members, active or contributive, we know that their participation in the activities was common. For example, they consulted books in the library, given that its opening to the public in 1884 included them, and they participated in talks and conferences that the association organized regularly. It is important to highlight that the appeal of the society was also directed to families, so the participation of women in different cultural events could have been initiated from their condition as wives, sisters or daughters.


In addition, some teachers had sent their poems or writings on education to the section “Collaboration of the fair sex” that the magazine El Tucumán Literario published as from 1894, causing controversy among some of the members[15].



In this framework, but without doubt taking one more step in that direction, to celebrate the 9th of July, 1902, a literary and musical event was planned in the venues of the Sociedad Sarmiento with a program that announced a distinctive sign, the participation of 3 women: Margarita Todd would read an allusive speech; Indalmira Cabot would be in charge of one of the musical parts of the act, and Ángela Ugarte would recite a poem by Rafael Obligado “El hogar paterno” (Father’s home). El Orden transcribed Margarita Todd’s speech and it is worth noticing its content, not only because it was the first time that a woman spoke in public in one of the venues of the association, but also because she was an explicit orator –appealing to a historical analysis with an evaluation of the role played by women in the past of the province, the country and Latin America,- the meaning that she attributed to the national festivities.


Todd begins by justifying her participation in the celebration as part of one of the “civic duties” of women. She goes over national and provincial history and puts forward a different view on the occasion, making reference to the place that women had occupied in the times of the independence.


Those wives and those mothers! Those that with so much courage and detachment offered the sacrifice of their own for so fair a cause. Oh, noble heroines, queens of history. The poet will always exalt our civic virtues, that inspired plucking the lute, at the foot of the glorious mausoleum that gratitude raises to our memories: since you have had (sic) the courage of the Maid of Orlean, and although you have not (sic) worn the armor of the warrior like Clorinda, you have proven in a decent way the patriotism of the Spartans, and like Teresa, the mystical doctor, whom among harmonies and perfumes she sends passion to the skies. Thus, you, yet more admirable, sending yours away, asked, praying with a sublime unction for them to accelerate the moments of the emancipation.  Yes, you have co-operated (sic) in the great cause, and you have been immortalized leaving for the future beautiful examples and long-lasting memories[16].



It was quite a novelty that a woman spoke in such a festivity on behalf of the Sociedad Sarmiento as well as the fact that her dissertation was published in the most important local newspaper. In general, the dissertations that managed to make it to the press were the conferences carried out in the venues of the society by some well-regarded and prestigious member; and up to that moment, all the speakers had been men.



However, the most important change was registered in August 1902 when the Sociedad Sarmiento decided to open their membership to women as well, formally including women as members. They could now officially participate in meetings and assemblies. Notwithstanding, they could neither vote nor be elected to the positions of the executive commission, nor could they could take part in the decisions of the association. Nevertheless, although the real reach of their possibilities of participating had been restricted to certain areas only, the most relevant event is still the incursion of women into a space that, up until that moment had been reserved for men[17].


In the case of the Biblioteca Alberdi, created in 1903, although its statutes expressed that “There is no privilege of sex, nationality or religion. […] it opens its doors to (sic) every educated person and to (sic) whoever wants to receive education,” it did not have any female members in its executive commission[18]. This was perhaps because most of the members of the library were immigrants or children of immigrants living permanently in Tucumán, who participated in associations for foreigners where women were included[19].


In the case of their participation in the Sociedad Sarmiento, we know that the interest of women in associative practices was closely related with their work situation and their aspirations to improve it. The consultation of books at the library[20], the access to talks and conferences[21], and to reading meetings must have meant an attractive reason to become members of a space that offered other important cultural services as well[22].


4. The Círculo del Magisterio: teacher training and strengthening of popular education in the interior of Tucumán.


In this favorable atmosphere for female participation in cultural associations, two spaces emerged, tightly related to each other, and that started to open the game for full female participation.


On the one hand, the school of assistants (Sarmiento) was created for both men and women, in 1904, and appointed Margarita Todd as its head. However, as from the following year it would be exclusively for women and was aimed at providing assistant teachers to the Tucumán countryside. On the other hand, the Círculo del Magisterio, founded in 1905, the purposes of which were to attain the “[…] personal, intellectual and moral wellbeing of the teachers; support the initiative of the public powers in the province in what refers to the improvement of primary teaching; favor the building of schools, the installation of reading rooms and regional school libraries[23].”



It is relevant (as a symptom of new concerns) that one of the first tasks of this association was to create a commission in charge of elaborating a comparative chart of teachers’ salaries throughout Argentina, in order to ask for an increase in the salary of the teachers in Tucumán. At the same time, the idea of writing a law for teachers’ pensions was put forward, for which another executive commission was appointed. Despite the fact that the female associates participated in the discussion of these topics, when it came to choosing these important commissions that would be in direct contact with the public powers or at least with authorities of the Council of Education, no women were part of them.


Once the regulations were written, the Círculo del Magisterio declared itself formally constituted on the 5th August, electing its first Executive Commission. One of the objectives was to foster reading rooms and regional libraries, which was under the charge of some of the women to whom we have previously referred. This activity was channeled through the sub-commissions created in the interior of the province, which would work as delegations:


[…] there will be sub-commissions of the círculo in the centers with greater population and importance in the province. These sub-commissions should be elected from the members of the círculo, residing in the population centers of the campaign, and will be composed of a president, secretary, treasurer and two vocals[24].


At the beginning, the case of Monteros, Lamadrid, Concepción, Simoca, el Ingenio San Juan (La Banda) and Aguilares, were considered for being places that fulfilled the population criteria. However, the most active localities were the first three. In order to make the incorporation effective, first it was thought that the education inspectors looked for a way to raise the interest of the teachers of those localities. However, afterwards, it was decided that the Círculo itself sent its own delegates, who went to each one of these localities and did the necessary procedures to include them[25]. Among the tasks fostered by the Círculo which were successful in the interior were the creation of the library of Monteros in 1906 and the realization of the celebration of the 9th of July in Concepción[26]. At the same time, all the sub-commissions cooperated, materially speaking, to the construction and the endowment of the Biblioteca del Maestro (Library of the Teacher) in 1908. Even when they did not have direct participation, we consider that the encouragement given from the Círculo through the creation of sub-commissions had an influence on the creation of popular libraries in the interior of Tucumán, thus reinforcing popular education.


Another objective was to attain the intellectual wellbeing of the teachers, which was developed in a dissertation by Margarita Todd, who:


[…] urged her colleagues to join forces to improve the union. She also proposes that if the Círculo had enough funds, they should send from among its members, delegates to the Latin American Scientific Congress, celebrated every two years. They should provide the means to continue a specialization to those teacher members who show outstanding conditions in some field of knowledge[27].


Todd’s proposal, which aimed at integrating a circuit to relate and exchange ideas with teachers and scientists on a Latin American level, was not a chimera in the Tucumán of the beginning of the century. Undoubtedly, the important participation of Tucumán in the Congress celebrated in Rio de Janeiro may have contributed to the discussion with respect to science among the teachers from the Círculo del Magisterio[28]. In addition, the topics dealt with in some of the works presented in the pedagogical section of the above-mentioned congress related the problems of education in Tucumán with the Latin American space[29].



We consider that the atmosphere generated around the Scientific Congess could have revived an idea that was already latent in the cultural associations, popular libraries and teaching environments from the beginning of the century, and that was related to the need to foster the study of science oriented to solving the most controversial social and economic problems in the province, in particular those of the sugar industry. We will analyze this topic in the following section.


5. Open courses and higher education in Tucumán: towards the creation of the provincial university


In 1902, an article was published which proposed that scientific contests were fostered by the Sociedad Sarmiento, similar to the literary contests organized by the association as from its origins. In this case, the following was encouraged:



[…] scientific tournaments, on topics related to the industry […] which act as a stimulus for those people who study and take part in those contests with the same honors and distinctions that on other occasions writers and poets have received[…]

The hope of a victory, the ambition of a prize, would lead people to consult books, that they exercise their brains, that they suggest new and useful topics of conversation among the youth; that those books full of dust, on physics, mineralogy, agriculture –that remain asleep in our libraries, while the volumes of poetry and romances are left pageless by fixing them- wake up for an instant[30].



In this climate of ideas, two years later, a project was written on open courses. It was written by Julio López Mañán, in July 1904, an opportunity in which the press considered that the idea “would complement the mission of the Sarmiento, broadening the scope of action and providing great benefits for the intellectual youth[31].” The project included the following



The Sociedad Sarmiento will procure that every year there are in its premises one or more open courses on science or arts, which as long as it is compatible with the teaching, they develop in those who take them research and critical aptitudes […] the enrollment will be public and there will be no limit of courses to be enrolled in, the student should only pay 4$ per course […] The courses should not last less than 3 months or more than 5, and the interval between sessions cannot be higher than 8 days […] The access to the courses is open to the public, although the instructor could restrict it, put conditions of special permits, etc. [32]



It was planned that the courses in which women would have the chance to enroll started by 1905, although with a different venue assigned for them than for men (while men would have to enroll in the premises of the Sociedad Sarmiento, women would do it in the Escuela Normal de Maestras). However, perhaps because all the energies of the members were concentrated on the building of a new branch of the Sociedad Sarmiento, the project had to wait until 1906, the year as from which the Association was under the presidency of the intellectual and politician Juan B. Terán for three consecutive terms.



For its inauguration, Juan B. Terán referred to said courses in the following terms:


These activities are part of the university extension, as it is called in England to the approximation of the institutes of higher education to the numerous classes of the society in order to make their benefits available to those who have not had the fortune of taking part in official courses, to disseminate the research projects and the special and superior scientific truths […]


 […] This regime of freedom, the open concurrence for those who teach as well as for those who learn is what conforms the nobility of these popular courses, which makes the environment more vivid and gives them a sensitive spring. They do not lead to a degree, they do not prepare students for a profession –their objective is nothing but the greatest abstract culture, the greatest dissemination of knowledge for what they mean, for the virtues in them. They have a higher education tendency. They aspire to complement, not to polarize […] Every society, and ours is already a society with complex processes of modern life, needs to nurture itself with scientific centers which have a progressive function in their spiritual life […]

There are now open courses in this Escuela Normal, granted by the National Government to the Provincial Government, they are destined to be delivered in conjunction with our library, when the Sociedad Sarmiento erects the house that will be its permanent and safe home. With this rudimentary system of open courses that are to be fulfilled in an organization and with more development, with its library with 15,000 volumes that it makes an effort to expand promptly, with the institute of Bacteriology that has already been created, beautiful promise of practical applications and theoretical essays, and also the Museum of American history and natural and regional history, the school of Fine arts, also in our projects, I have enumerated the elements with which the future Universidad de Tucumán will  count[33].



The chronicle of the newspaper said the following regarding the concurrence of the opening day: “Not only has a great part of our students attended, but also a number of well-known gentlemen and many of our most intelligent female teachers, attracted by the joyful initiative of the Sarmiento[34].”


As it is known, the open courses were one of the direct antecedents of the creation of the provincial university. The bill to create the new educational institution –born in the bosom of the Sociedad Sarmiento in the first decade of the century- was presented in October 1909 by Juan B. Terán (who started his second term as legislator occupying the vice-presidency of the Chamber of Deputies in the province).


The characteristics that the natural environment, the history and the productive potential of the provinces of the north, in particular those derived from their main economic activity, that of the sugar, marked the project of Tucumán, which gave a preferential place to the formation of chemists and industrial engineers. In the same way, the concept of “extension” prevails, inspired by the Anglo-Saxon experiences, in the first place those of North American universities, although the most recent developments and innovations of the German, French and English universities were also well regarded.


It was one of the characteristics that the universities of La Plata and Tucumán shared (and which told them apart from those of Cordoba and Buenos Aires), to which the need to incorporate pedagogical studies to their curricula would be added. But while in the case of La Plata the intention was to “broaden the experimental field of the studies destined to form the regular, secondary and higher education teacher training program of the Republic[35],” considering that female concurrence would constitute one of the most peculiar features of the university, when it comes to the university in Tucumán the creation of the Pedagogical School was relevant for different reasons. For Juan B. Terán, “vocational teaching” was not alien to the Normal School and justified the incorporation of some subjects, such as “house/domestic economy” and “manual work/handcrafts,” which would contribute to making the skills of the teacher less specialized, but wider and more useful. So, he/she would be entitled to transform the methods from the books, and substitute them for the objectives that teach how to find knowledge in nature[36].”



 “Reality, practice, life, nature” are some of the environments that Terán recommends to achieve training according to the needs of the common men and women, for whom the Universidad de Tucumán would also add activities of “popular extension” and the “night courses for laborers.”


For the first rector of the university, the Pedagogic School was a home of work, of joy, where one of the greatest passions was carried out, as was the training of the character and the heart of the children. And he added:


Such is the role that you are called to fulfill from now on, young teachers, and while we say goodbye to you, pay attention once and again that more than enlightenment, you need faith and love, that more than a task you will fulfill a mission, that more than brains you are given hearts and instincts – that nature is the best book, that the nation needs healthy, happy and generous men, and good, confident and home-dedicated women, also laborers of moral and material greatness to which we aspire[37].



When the transition of the pedagogical school to the university orbit was decided, Margarita Todd was no longer the head of this school. She had requested voluntary retirement in 1911, at the age of 36. Before her retirement, she received an important national recognition for her trajectory in teacher training by being chosen as one of the members of the promotion commission of the Primer Congreso Femenino Internacional (First International Female Congress) in the interior of the country, which would be celebrated in Buenos Aires in May 1910[38]. As is known, this conference, which had been organized by the Association of university women, had the aim of “linking women of all social conditions with a common idea: education and female training[39].” Through the exchange with women from different countries, the objective of sharing experiences that added up to the discussion of diverse topics was sought[40]. On the other hand, the date, May 1910, was a homage to the Republic in its first century and constituted an outstanding opportunity to debate about the situation in which women were in, in the midst of the centenary, without being blinded by an “absurd sense of patriotism[41].”



We cannot tell if the new profile of the female graduate sought by the institution and that had been defined by Juan B. Terán in his opening speech, was shared by Margarita Todd. What we do know is that the new head of the Escuela Pedagógica Sarmiento (pedagogical school), Otilde B. Toro, re-affirmed Terán’s ideas by explaining the benefits of the adequation of the curriculum:


The incorporation of Agriculture, Children’s Hygiene, Manual Work and Domestic Economy programs, were supposed to cause an important transformation in the primary school and in the activity of the teacher. With regard to the first, new practices are implemented to improve the future of the youth opening great spaces in the school routine. With regard to the teacher, a first step has been taken for the rehabilitation of the woman as a specific factor of material progress (…) By simultaneously studying music and agriculture, Christian morality and domestic economy, getting acquainted with rhetoric and training the eye and the hand in manufacturing; if she goes to the academy and to the farm with the same love, the Argentine woman, discreetly and eluding the excesses of freedom the feminism of Stuart Mill, will have abolished the universal formulism that, by enslaving her, by subjecting her, opposes to the progress of humanity[42].



That of Otilde Toro was a conservative view which emphasized the training of the woman, strengthening their roles as wife, mother and –as an extension of maternity- of educator, which goes in tune with the social Catholicism of Juan B. Terán.  We do not find similar texts among the writings of Margarita Todd. As was seen, she urged women to participate in scientific discussion on the same level as men.


6. Conclusions


The educational trajectory of Margarita Todd constitutes an excellent point of observation to come closer to the aspirations shared by some female teachers from Tucumán who, towards the end of the 19th century, tried but with difficulty to enter a public space that, except for the case of the literary and cultural associative world, kept a masculine logic. With the coming of the new century, this world of cultural sociability opened to such aspirations including educated women in activities, such as reading, talks, conferences and even courses for those who aspired to attain higher education.


Taking part in a cultural and social environment, with such characteristics, was a sort of rehearsal for the experience that they would start together with educators from the province in 1905. That event was the foundation of the Círculo del Magisterio, an associative experience of an educational nature which had, among its main objectives the improvement of education in the province and the fostering of the intellectual abilities of its members. With respect to the first objective, the concern was focused on reinforcing popular education in the interior of the province through the creation of libraries and reading rooms. The second aspiration was part of an intellectual atmosphere that prevailed in the province from the beginning of the century, and that discussed the possibility of developing a scientific culture around the reflection and resolution of problems of a society that was transforming rapidly, due to the expansion of the sugar activity. This environment was a subsidiary, at the same time, of a scientific movement on a national and Latin American level of which women were aware and had started to express themselves in the realization of international congresses, the discussion of scientific journals and the delivery of courses on scientific topics. Throughout this work, we could observe that Margarita Todd was one of the teachers who encouraged the active participation of female educators from Tucumán in this movement. This was shown in the celebration of the Centenary in 1910. Actually, this event did not remain unnoticed among the women who occupied the public space from different places and served to put forward the projects of each group and their differences.



We believe that the participation of teachers, such as Margarita, in these spaces, allowed women to, firstly, share and exchange ideas with actors with whom they had cultural and educational concerns in common; then, to articulate different demands from the teachers of the province which brought her social recognition and prestige on a national level, to the extent that she was one of the delegates of the patriotic congress of 1910. Finally, we consider that it was through these associative experiences that some women gained recognition beyond the classrooms and that they could project themselves out of the provincial borders in the midst of a climate that favored association with educational and cultural objectives.






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Vignoli, Marcela. “Asociacionismo, cultura y política en tiempos de crisis, la Sociedad Sarmiento de Tucumán, 1900-1909” Travesía, No 11, (2011): 187-214.



To cite this article:

Marcela Vignoli, “Educative career and associative practices of a woman from Tucuman in between centuries: Margarita Todd, schoolteacher”, Historia y Memoria, No. 11 (July-December, 2015): 123-149.

* This article is the result of the research project in Spanish called: La cuestión social en Tucumán, 1888-1923. Debates, controversias, políticas. (The social issue in Tucuman, 1888-1923. Debates, controversies, policies), financed by the Consejo de Investigaciones de la Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, (2014-2018).

[1] Professor and Doctor of History, graduated from the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán. Assistant researcher from CONICET, based in the Instituto Superior de Estudios Sociales ISES (UNT-CONICET). Auxiliary professor in the subject “Methodology of historical research” (delivered in Spanish) in the degree in Archaeology from the Faculty of Natural Science and the Miguel Lillo Institute from the UNT.

[2] “Minute book of the Foundation”, Círculo del Magisterio, 14 April, 1906, 23-24.

[3] Ribeiro da Andrade, Ana María.  A terceira reuniao do Congresso Scientífico Latino-Americano: ciencia e política, Río de Janeiro: Museu de Astronomía e Ciencias Afins, 2002.

[4] From what we know, the fourth congress included 20 countries and more than 2000 attendees, and around 750 works were presented. Sagasti, Francisco and Alejandra Pavaez “Ciencias y tecnología en América Latina a principios del siglo XX: primer congreso científico panamericano” Quipu, vol. 6, num. 2, May-August 1989, 189-216.

[5] Margarita Todd, who had graduated at the age of 14 from the Escuela Normal de Maestras in 1889, was one of the first orators in the national celebration of the 9th of July, 1902, representing the prestigious Sociedad Sarmiento. What she said was so significant that the most important newspaper in Tucuman, El Orden, decided to publish it. She was part of the select group of “members” who joined that literary association when membership was opened to educated women. After an important career in the educational field, as the head of the Escuela Superior Alberdi and the Escuela de Graduadas Juana Manso, in 1904, and at 29 years of age, the general council of education appointed her as headmistress of the Escuela de Ayudantes Sarmiento, a position in which she remained until 1911, when she decided to take voluntary retirement. In addition, she was a founder member of the Círculo del Magisterio, created in 1905, and was one of the delegates sent to the interior of the province to evaluate the need for the creation of popular libraries. She performed several roles in this association, one of the most important being that of vice-president in 1907. In that same year, she married José S. Tula, with whom she had a daughter, Margarita Tula Todd, in December 1908.

[6] The incorporation of women into the public space, constitutes one of the main issues covered by the studies that analyze, from a gender perspective, the last decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Focused on the tasks performed by women in charitable societies or the inclusion of women into the labor market, through the study of the first teachers, as well as the experience of female workers, these studies seek to analyse in what way women were incorporated, in a gradual way, into a space that was dominated by men and that worked according to a restricted logic with regard to the participation of women in certain spheres. Yet, when these circumstances were strongly justified from a legal point of view, according to Vélez Sarsfield’s Civil Code, sanctioned in 1869, many studies have managed to bring to light the questionings that began to appear after this regulation regarding the situation of women was approved. At the same time, the dichotomous image between the public and private sphere has been questioned: here the interaction and constant overlapping between men and women in both spaces stood out.

[7] On this topic and in contrast with a study of the Mexican situation, the following work has been consulted: Priego, Natalia (2011) “Heroínas anónimas de la ciencia en México: Petra Martínez, maestra. In Jacinto, Lizette and Eugenia Scarzanella (eds.) Género y ciencia en América Latina: mujeres en la academia y en la clínica (siglos XIX y XX) Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2011.

[8] As is known, the concept of sociability comes from sociological studies and was introduced into the field of history at the end of the 1970’s and 1980’s by Maurice Agulhon, becoming a tool that opened the field to possible investigations. Following Agulhon, sociability is “a special aptitude to living in groups and to consolidating those groups through the constitution of voluntary associations.” Agulhon, Maurice, Historia vagabunda. México: Instituto Mora, 1994, 55. However, when we refer to female participation in associations where there had been masculine predominance and that as from the first decades of the 20th century were opened up to a female public, we can think, together with Asunción Lavrín, that the participation of women in associations constituted a fundamental part of the change in mentality with respect to the role of women in some countries of the southern cone during the first decades of the 20th century. In fact, for the author “[…] sociability was indispensable […] to overcoming the problem of the communication of ideas, interests, and strategies as a group, constrained as they were by the restrictions on their movement out of the house” (Lavrín: 1997, 80).

[9] Guindín, Julián. “Sobre las asociaciones docentes de comienzos del siglo XX”, in Seminário Internacional da Rede de Pesquisadores sobre Associativismo e Sindicalismo dos Trabalhadores em Educação, Rio de Janeiro, 22 and 23 April, 2010.

[10]Ascolani, Adrián. “Las Convenciones Internacionales del Magisterio Americano de 1928 y 1930. Circulación de ideas sindicales y controversias político-pedagógicas”. Revista Brasileira de História da Educação, no. 23, 71-96, May/August 2011.

[11] Ascolani, Adrián. Objetos, teorías y métodos. Opciones en la definición del campo disciplinar de la Historai de la Educación Argentina. Vetas, San Luis Potosí, 2003.


[12] Cf. Guy, Donna, Política azucarera argentina. Tucumán y la Generación del 80. Tucumán: EDUNT, 2009 (1ª edición, 1981); Campi, Daniel and María Celia Bravo,Elite y sistema de poder en Tucumán a fines del siglo XIX. Una aproximación al problema”. Secuencia, No. 47, Instituto Mora, México, 2000; Campi, Daniel, “Las provincias del Norte. Economía y sociedad”. In: Mirta Lobato (coord.), El progreso, la modernización y sus límites (1880-1916). Tomo V, Nueva Historia Argentina. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2000.


[13] There were published the works of the members and articles and poems by well-known authors in the aesthetic-literary current dominated by romanticism. The analysis of these publications allowed for the assessment of the different themes covered in these magazines, among which, those that stand out are topics related to the discussion of educational innovations for young people, children, women and laborers; the role of the youth and their importance in the formation of a civic consciousness in society, as well as proposals for social and technological change adapted to the needs of the province. Vignoli, Marcela. “Asociacionismo, cultura y política en tiempos de crisis, la Sociedad Sarmiento de Tucumán, 1900-1909” Travesía, No 11, (2011): 187-214.  

[14] In 1895, 8,502 boys and 7,618 girls had been enrolled in the schools of the province, while there were 135 male teachers and 230 female teachers. A decade later, the students enrolled in the whole of the province were divided into 17,523 boys and 15,813 girls. With respect to the teaching staff, in the whole of the province there were 138 male teachers and 434 female teachers, who held different positions in the educational area. Anuario Estadístico de la Provincia de Tucumán, years 1884-1910, Official edition.

[15] The female poet Josefa Díaz, the female educators Caridad Jayme, Catalina Jiménez, Enriqueta Lucero, Otilde B. Toro Petronila B. de Albuernes, as well as other women who only signed with their first name or a pseudonym sent their work to El Tucumán Literario. One of the arguments that took place was the one between Caridad Jayme and the member Francisco Astigueta about the access of women to higher education. On that opportunity, Astigueta vigorously rejected the possibility of women entering the university while Caridad Jayme defended it. Cf. Vignoli, Marcela. (2010) “Educadoras, lectoras y socias. La irrupción de las mujeres en un espacio de sociabilidad masculino. La Sociedad Sarmiento de Tucumán (Argentina) entre 1882 y 1902”, in Secuencia, México, nº 80, May-June 2011.


[16] El Orden newspaper, Tucumán, 8 July, 1902.

[17] The list of new members included: Celinda Aybar Sobrecasas, Guillermina Duberti, María Remis, Francisca Verasa Ince, Adelaida Stagnetto, Federica Duberti, Elvira Hawkes, Juana Masmela, Dolores Huidobro, Maria Luisa Acosta, Benita Heredia, Magdalena Urrutia, Ernestina Araboldi, María Arias Andrade, Francisca Araoz: Enriqueta Lucero, Ángela Ugarte, Ormesinda L. de Belascuain, Rebeca R. Bravo, Romelia Bravo y Ángela María Bunella, María Ceballos, María Esther Córdoba, Leontina G. de Coulomb, Amalia Díaz, Elvira García, Lucila M. de López, Agustina de Mainadei, Carmen A. de Moulins, María Páez, Susana Todd, Margarita Todd, Asunción de Romano, Eulogia Azcoaga, Catalina J. de Ayala, Florinda P. de Quarré and María Luisa Constant. “Sociedad Sarmiento: sus progresos, el concurso de la mujer”, El Orden, 29 August, 1902.

[18]Minute book”, T. I, Biblioteca Alberdi, 30 June, 1903.

[19] The Spanish Society of mutual assistance and charity, created in 1878, had a group of women who actively participated in the organization of social events, such as pageants or balls. However, these women did not occupy positions either in the commissions of the pageants or in the Spanish Association.

[20] In 1904, the library of the Sociedad Sarmiento had 10,918 volumes; received 72 magazines and newspapers from around the country, and 8,145 titles had been consulted, to take home and in the reading room, throughout the year. Its director Ricardo Jaimes Freyre planned to supply the library with Spanish and French magazines, and had asked the bookstores of Buenos Aires that they sent the library new books every month. It was estimated that the association had about 800 members. The Biblioteca Alberdi, in that same year, had 370 members; 14,185 people had consulted its books and 5 conferences had been carried out.

[21] That year, twenty-four conferences had been organized. Some of the most relevant speakers in the first decade of the 20th century were: Adrián Patroni, Joaquín Tula, el Dr. Gámbara, Bialet Massé, Petronila B. de Albuernes, Juan José García Belloso, Fray Francisco Villalba, José I. Yani, Maximio Victoria, Juan Bialet Massé.

[22] These events, that generally took place in the Teatro Belgrano, were to celebrate some patriotic festivity or to collect funds for the Sociedad Sarmiento.

[23] The first members were: Agenor Albornoz, Medardo Moreno Saravia, Julio César López, Justa de Belfiore, Margarita Todd, Belisario Flores, Enriqueta Moreno Saravia, Amalia Díaz, Benjamín Sosa, José Fierro, Ana Smith, Otilde B. Toro, Rosa Borges, Juana R. Bianchi, Carolina Paz, Alejandro Franco, Rosa Ceballos, Petronila B. de Albuernes, Serafina Escobar, Eulogia Azcoaga, Lastenia Barrero, Carmen Smith, Alejandro Brian, Avelino García, José A. Torres, M. R. Santillán, Ángel C. Vega. Out of these members, a provisional executive commission was formed: President: Agenor Albornoz, Vice-president: Justa Gómez de Belfiore; Secretary: Julio López; Pro-secretary: Margarita Todd; Treasurer: Otilde B. Toro; Pro-treasurer: Eulogia Azcoaga; Vocals: Manuel Moreno Saravia, Alejandro Brian and J. Belisario Flores, and alternate vocals: Amalia Díaz and Ana Smith. This commission was in office for about a month. Minute Book of the Foundation” Círculo del Magisterio, 30 August, 1905, 3-5; 11.

[24] “Minute book of the de la Foundation” Círculo del Magisterio, 30 August, 1905, 12-14.

[25] The delegates were: Margarita Todd, María E. Barros to Monteros; Manuel Moreno Segovia to Concepción and Mr. M. M. Saravia to Medinas. Those who adhered the campaign were: Antonio Zelarayán; Honorio Albornoz, Miguel Graneros, Juana de Moreno Gómez, Sara Meléndez; Dolores Moreno Altía; Angélica Riera; Etelbina Delgado; Juana Pérez, Agustina J. de Alvarado; Urbana Maciel; Pelayo Salomón; Manuela Ruiz; Carmen Burgos; Zacarías Gómez; Encarnación G. de Lencinas; Amalia Kliver, Amelia J. Cisneros; Elvira Goya; J. Silvana Jerez; Julia Palma; Domingo Palacios; Visitación G. de Acuña; V. M. Correa; J. M. Correa; Romelia C. Falconi; Mercedes Gómez; Teresa Alcaide; Felisa Alcaide; Amalia J. de Maldonado; Celedonio Gómez; Jesús Falconi; Raimundo Molina; Concepción E. de Goitea; María H. Delgadino; Juana Molina Leiva; Mercedes P. Zelarayán; Domingo Ávila Sánchez; Elvira B. de Tolosa; Cleofé Giménez; M. del Carmen Fuenteseca; Carmen Posse.

[26] “Minute book of the Foundation” Círculo del Magisterio,1905, 29-30

[27] “Minute book of the Foundation” Círculo del Magisterio 14 April, 1906, 23-24.

[28] Among the official delegates, there was the prestigious doctor from Tucumán, Eliseo Cantón, who presented a work called Sobre 17 casos de operación cesárea conservadora (About 17 cases of conservative cesarean surgery). Another speaker was Dr. Carlos Wauters, whose work had a great repercussion. It analyzed in more than 200 pages Los Sistema de regadío en Tucumán (Irrigation systems n Tucumán).

[29] Maria Clara da Cunha Santos “A aptidao da mulher no exercicio da educacao infantil e razao suficiente para que o Estado lhe confie exclusivamente o ensino primario?”; Ignez Sabino Pinho Maia “As leis de orden social permitem que a ilustracao da mulher sejam equiparadas a educacao e ilustracao do homem?”; Dr. Theodoro de Magallaes “E justa e conveniente a obrigatoriedade do ensino primario? Quaes os meios de tornal-a effetiva?”; Amelia de Freitas Bevbilaqua “Que disciplinas devbe comprehender o plano do estudos do curso primario, para que o sujeito de ensino seja instruido e educado no sentido de sua finalidade?”; J. A. Fontenla “Perniciosos errores de método en la Escuela primaria superior, que es preciso corregir”. Uruguay; Dr. Luiz Gastao de Escragnolle Doria “O deber pedagógico na America Latina”, Brasil.


[30] El Orden newspaper, Tucumán, 21 October, 1902.

[31] It is worth clarifying that, in the same extraordinary session, the author of this project proposed the creation of an archive of old documents that would have their premises in the Sociedad Sarmiento “in order to facilitate historical studies. Many papers that seem insignificant, which exist in many households are generally destroyed without giving them any merit.” El Orden, 15 July, 1904.

[32] The topics of the first courses were the following: “Hygiene and social prophylaxis”; “Alcoholism”, “Paludism and tuberculosis”, in the charge of Dr. Pedro J. García, to be delivered on Tuesdays; “The Castilian versification, its laws and history” in the charge of Ricardo Jaimes Freire delivered on Thursdays, and finally Dr. Ubaldo Benci delivered courses on  Social conflicts: environment and the individual” on Saturdays.

[33] El Orden newspaper, Tucumán, 12 September, 1906.

[34] El Orden newspaper, Tucumán, 12 September, 1906.

[35] Universidad Nacional de La Plata. Obras Completas de Joaquín V. González, Vol. XIV, Buenos Aires, 1935. 205

[36] Terán, Juan B. La Universidad y la vida, Coni, 1921, Buenos Aires. 87-88.

[37] Terán, Juan B. La Universidad y… 90

[38] Catalina Jiménez de Ayala, Headmistress of the Escuela Normal de Tucumán, was a delegate at the same Conference.

[39] Primer Congreso Femenino Internacional de la República Argentina, Ceppi, Buenos Aires, 1911. 37.

[40] The conference, celebrated between the 18 and 23 of May, 1910, in Buenos Aires, had representatives from several countries of Latin America: Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay, as well as some representatives from Europe: Italy and Spain. In addition, it had the adherence of diverse associations from different countries. The topics of the different sections were: sociology, law, education, sciences, arts and industries.

[41] Primer Congreso 38. The conference organized by female university students also intended to separate from the group of women gathered in the Consejo Nacional de Mujeres (National Council of Women), who had organized the First Patriotic Conference for Women, as part of the celebrations.

Cfr. Vasallo, Alejandra. “Entre el conflicto y la negociación. Los feminismos argentinos en los inicios del Consejo Nacional de Mujeres, 1900-1910.” In Pita, Valeria (2000) Historia de las mujeres en la Argentina Siglo XX. T. II, Buenos Aires, Taurus; Lobato, Mirta. “Conmemoraciones patrióticas y mujeres: los desafíos del presente en el Bicentenario de la Revolución de Mayo”. Mora. 2010, vol.16, no.1, ISSN 1853-001X, Buenos Aires.


[42] Terán, Juan B. La Universidad y la vida, Buenos Aires: Coni, 1921, 222-223.