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Seven— The Journalism of Alfonsina Storni: A New Approach to Women's History in Argentina
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The Journalism of Alfonsina Storni: A New Approach to Women's History in Argentina

Gwen Kirkpatrick

Few women writers in the history of Latin American letters can match the dramatic appeal of the life and career of Alfonsina Storni. The impact of her poetry and prose and the events of her life have given rise to a legend. With her immigrant beginnings, her early and widely publicized success as a poet, her status as an unwed mother and social rebel, her tragic suicide, and a body of poetry that touches on vital women's issues, her name has become a symbol for generations of Latin American women. The different stages in the creation of a mythic Alfonsina Storni also reflect stages of women's roles in society. Her name has been used in popular songs and has served as the bannerhead for various types of women's magazines in Argentina; her life has been the subject of many studies and of televison and film dramas.

Although the popular appeal of this legend has made famous some of her poetry, other aspects of her life and career have been ignored in the necessary shrinkage involved in mythmaking. As the following study of Storni will show, her activism was not limited to the message of her poetry and to the rebellious gesture. In her career as poet, journalist, teacher, and speaker, Storni exhibited an uncanny eye for social topics directly affecting women's lives and was able to publicize them through her prose writings.

As an inheritor of a vigorous feminist movement in Latin America, Storni used the "women's page" of major daily newspapers and magazines to set forth her own version of feminism. In many respects, her efforts exemplified the rise and decline of women's activism during her lifetime. More traditional than some of her feminist friends and associates, she nonetheless championed many feminist concerns of her day. On a more personal level, we can see her sense of social urgency wane as she received wider critical acclaim and was accepted into influential literary circles.

It is not surprising, given many of the facts of her life and the content of


her work, that her public image draws its best-known images from certain aspects of her private life. Like so many women writers before her, Storni defined herself as a prisoner of her gender. Indeed, some of her most famous poems, such as "Hombre pequeñito" ("Little Man") and "Tú me quieres blanca" ("You Want Me White"), forcefully protest and subvert gender hierarchy in a male-dominated society. Her tortured love life (at least as it is presented in her poetry), her status as an unwed mother, her difficulty in supporting herself, and her suicide in 1938, following a long illness, have given dramatic shading to this myth.

Although Storni protested eloquently against the public insistence on her private life, she also collaborated to promote the private myth. While at the same time working for women's rights and other collective sociopolitical concerns, her own stance, as reflected in her poetry, popularized her image as a caged woman, trapped within society's domesticated view of women. Her suicide, for which she wrote a farewell poem to her friends and readers (which she mailed the day of her death to the major newspaper of Buenos Aires), has reinforced this image.

What is needed in the criticism of Storni's work is an effort to integrate both the public and the private versions. Given her symbolic role, it is not surprising that most studies on Storni separate her from the public sphere, choosing to examine her only in her role as an isolated and sentimentalized figure. Therefore, it is important to recognize that Storni was a woman involved in many of the wider social issues of her day and was an exemplary case of the thousands of middle-class women who were moving into the work force and into professional life in the early decades of this century. A study of some of her journalistic writings, heretofore unexamined, can help to move this legendary poet back into the context of her lived history.

One of the challenges of feminist criticism today is to offer new contextual readings of canonized literary figures. Placing their works within their historical and social context can add new dimensions to our understanding of the environment that shaped their literature. The resources of history (in this case, the rapidly developing field of women's history in Latin America) and the study of extraliterary writings offer different perspectives for situating literary works within a social context. Literary biography, often exaggerated in the case of women writers, tends to respond to society's needs to see woman in the private, not the public, sphere. In Spanish American literary history, one has only to remember the seemingly endless speculations concerning the love lives of female writers such as Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Delmira Agustini, and Gabriela Mistral in order to become aware of this phenomenon. The following study will examine some of the stereotyped critical evaluations of Storni and her work and will propose an outline of some different methods of evaluating Storni's work and impact. New contextual readings of her work, using Storni's own writings, previous studies and biographies, and recent research in women's history produce a very different im-


age of the legendary Alfonsina Storni. Especially important in this project is the review of Storni's journalistic production, unexamined until now. The project of collecting and analyzing these writings is part of a more extensive study that will connect Storni and other women poets to a wider social matrix.[1]

A look at some of the appraisals by contemporaries of Storni can reveal some of the factors that have shaped the accustomed vision of her and her work. Baldomero Fernández Moreno's "seguidilla" of 1938, published in the influential journal Nosotros (to which Storni contributed from 1918 on), offers an emblematic image of the stereotypical groupings so often accorded to women writers. In his affectionate evocation of the three major female poets of the time—Gabriela Mistral, Juana de Ibarbourou, and Storni—he features them in diminutive terms:

Chile y el Uruguay
     y la Argentina
     tienen tres pajaritos
     de gorja fina.
Que son Gabriela,
     y Juana y Alfonsina
     del mundo y nuestras.[2]

[Chile and Uruguay
     and Argentina
     have three little birds
     of finest warbling.
They are Gabriela,
     and Juana and Alfonsina;
     they belong to the world and to us.]

Given that one of Storni's best-known poems, "Hombre pequeñito" (Irremediablemente , 1919), uses the image of the caged bird as a symbol of the woman's cry for greater freedom, Fernández Moreno's use of the diminutive "pajarito" to characterize the three poets is particularly infelicitous.

Jorge Luis Borges is especially harsh in his comments about Storni. On reviewing the work of Nydia Lamarque in 1925, he compares Lamarque to other women writers, dismissing in one blow the young Storni. According to Borges, Lamarque's work has neither "las borrosidades ni la chillonería de comadrita que suele inferirnos la Storni" [the vagueness nor the gossipy shrillness that this Storni tends to offer us].[3] In his section of the prologue to the important anthology Índice de la nueva poesía americana (1926), Borges singles out Storni for especially derisive criticism:

De la Storni y de otras personas que han metrificado su tedio de vivir en esta ciudá de calles derechas, sólo diré que el aburrimiento es quizá la única emoción impoética . . . y que es también, la que con preferencia ensalzan sus plumas. Son rubenistas vergonzantes, miedosos.[4]


[Of Storni and of others who have versified their tedium of living in this city of straight streets, I will only say that boredom is perhaps the only unpoetic emotion . . . and it is also the one with which they choose to sauce their pens. They are shameful and fearful "rubenistas."]

One can only guess why Borges chose Storni for attack amid other poets in a crowded literary scene, although his earlier cited remarks strongly suggest social class divisions.

Eduardo González Lanuza gives another perspective on her work at the time of her death. As a well-known literary journalist for newspapers and magazines such as Sur and La Nación , a poet, and a member of the avantgarde revolt of the 1920s, González Lanuza evaluates her work in the way that could be called the "canonized" view of Storni. While applauding her valiant struggles and courage within a hostile environment, he finds an "aesthetic impurity" in her work:

Mujer inteligente y fuerte, no logró realizarse como poeta por no haber sabido superarse a sí misma. En sus mejores poemas aparece con regularidad fatal un elemento de impureza estética, un residuo inorgánico no asimilado, un prosaísmo que se enquista y resta vitalidad a sus versos.[5]

[An intelligent and strong woman, she could not fulfill herself as a poet because she didn't know how to rise above herself. In her best poems, an element of aesthetic impurity appears with fatal regularity, an inorganic residue, a prosaic quality that invades and robs her verses of vitality.]

González Lanuza attempts to justify his criticism of Storni, and in doing so reveals the exclusivity of his aesthetic principles:

Su sexo constituía una traba. Aun teniendo genio, las dificultades hubieran sido inmensas. . . . Aceptó el reto, y ése fue su mayor mérito y su irreparable error. Su mérito como mujer que supo tomarse los derechos que se le negaban; su error como poeta, porque la poesía no puede servir para nada ajeno a sus propios fines. Menos aun puede servir de válvula de escape para resentimientos personales: y en cada poema de la primera época de Alfonsina alienta, apenas reprimido, el resentimiento contra el hombre y la obsesión del eterno masculino.[6]

[Her sex constituted an obstacle. Even while possessing genius, the difficulties would have been immense. . . . She accepted the challenge, and that was her greatest merit and her irreparable error. Her merit as a woman who learned to take for herself the rights denied to her; her error as a poet, because poetry cannot serve anything outside its own ends. It can serve even less as an escape valve for personal resentments: and in every poem of Alfonsina's first stage, scarcely repressed, there breathes a resentment against men and an obsession with the eternal masculine.]

These observations by a prominent literary critic, published in Sur shortly after Storni's death, remind us that literary judgments (as well as literary


legends) are products of a given epoch's standards—in this case, those established by power groupings within a patriarchal society.

In reviewing the characterizations of Storni and her writings, it becomes clear that literary evaluations of her work are inextricably linked to the issues she addressed in her poetry and, even more directly, in her journalistic production. The previously reviewed criticism shows that many of her fellow writers and critics could not accept that women would bring their personal concerns to their writing. Women's issues, with their "aesthetic impurity," were not to appear in poetry, whether expressed as personal or as larger social issues. By regarding Storni's themes as purely personal complaints, and by separating her from her social context, many critics have seen the major themes of her writing as unique and unconnected to her participation in a wider cultural sphere.

The characterization of Storni by Gabriela Mistral is of a very different type, for Mistral stresses her active intelligence rather than her emotional nature:

Informada como pocas criaturas de la vida, dando el comentario oportuno de las cosas más diversas, mujer de gran ciudad que ha pasado tocándolo todo e incorporándoselo, Alfonsina es de los que conocen por la mente tanto como por la sensibilidad, cosa muy latina. . . . Toda la fiesta de su amistad la hace su inteligencia. Poca emotiva.[7]

[Informed as are few of life's children, giving witty commentary about the most diverse things, a woman of a great city who has lived touching and incorporating everything, Alfonsina is one who knows by her mind as much as by her sensibility, a very Latin trait. . . . She creates the entire festival of her friendship with her intelligence. Scarcely emotional.]

Juan Parra del Riego, who edited Antología de poetisas americanas in 1923, gives highly personalized and often astute accounts of the poets he selects. Like Mistral, he notes Storni's aggressive intellect, but with a difference: "ese aire de intensa melancolía intelectual, mejor dicho, de soledad intelectual un poco febril y agresiva que hace tan entrañable su poesía"[8] [that air of intense intellectual melancholy, or rather, slightly feverish and aggressive intellectual solitude, makes her poetry so intimate]. Unlike Mistral, however, he implies that this is a stance more masculine than feminine: "dolor intelectual, dolor de inteligencia, dolor más bien de hombres que dolor de mujeres"[9] [intellectual sorrow, a sorrow of intelligence, more like the sorrow of men than like that of women]. He compares her manner to that of

esas estudiantes checo-eslovacas que llegan a París, menudas y ardientes . . . mujercitas sutiles y cerebrales, que fuman, que discuten con un calor de anarquistas temas de arte y filosofía y que se van llenando con el tiempo de esa cosa triste y ronca de los hombres del café.[10]


[those Czech female students who arrive in Paris, small and ardent . . . subtle and cerebral little women who smoke, who discuss themes of art and philosophy with anarchist heat, and who in time are filled with that sad and harsh quality of the men of cafés.]

The somewhat androgynous picture he describes could fit well with a scene Storni herself might paint of a female "type" in her newspaper and magazine articles. What is interesting here, however, is that one of the popular images of her as nonconformist and marginalized was established early in her career. It is an image fixed in popular consciousness and has provided a vantage point from which most of her work has been read.

Storni's anthologized poetry is most often limited to highly personal themes, and seldom are her other writings, many of which are different in nature, brought to examination. Therefore an effort to return her to her historical epoch and to note her convergence and association with other working and writing women of her times can reshape the vision of her work and its impact.

Storni's life dramatically illustrates the rise of a new class of activist professional women, often immigrants or first-generation citizens, whose emergence in Argentina was affected by a growing feminist movement and by labor movements in urban areas. These women often entered the public sphere through the classroom, through journalism, or through community organizing and service fields. Though hardly a typical case, given her extraordinary talent and energy, early recognition, and popular appeal, Storni in many ways exemplifies the struggles and achievements of a new class of women. From a Swiss-Italian immigrant family that settled in the provinces, she, like a large group of women coming of age around World War I, was educated as a maestra . She was to dedicate a great part of her working life to the teaching profession, most notably in a school for the dramatic arts.

Storni herself noted the striking surge of middle-class women in intellectual life, and in 1936 she singled out the connection with the teaching profession. Calling many women writers "feministas a pesar suyo" [feminists in spite of themselves], she pointed out the number of teachers among them:

Vienen en parte, de la cultura normalista: el mayor número de las escritoras sudamericanas son maestras y más están, por vía de la fermentación intelectual, contra su medio social que sirviendo sus formas tradicionales.[11]

[They come, in part, from the schoolteacher culture, the greatest number of South American women writers are teachers and, via intellectual ferment, more are against their social milieu than are serving its traditional forms.]

This awareness of the antitraditionalism inherent in her class and gender position constitutes an important thread running throughout all Storni's writings and public activities.


The expressions of personal conflict in Storni's poetry have overshadowed other aspects of her career. A passionate defender of women's and children's rights, she took a visible position in feminist activities, especially in the early stages of her career. She used her assignments of the women's column in various periodicals, such as La Nota and La Nación , to make acerbic and penetrating commentaries in favor of social reforms, especially in the areas of women's legal status, workers' rights, the civil status of unwed mothers, and the role of the Church. Although the more overt political tone of such writings changed as Storni moved more completely into certain literary circles of Buenos Aires, the abundance and nature of the early journalistic writings may surprise the reader accustomed to a more private vision of her life.

Storni herself remarked on the limitations of the private focus, as in an interview of 1927:

Siempre he pensado que iba a hacer un día un autoanálisis de mi obra; yo no soy una erótica, una desenfadada, una especie de esponja de la vida. Apasionada, ¿ por qué no? Pero la pasión puede ser clara, espiritual, sin malicia. Soy un alma que gobierna un cuerpo, no un cuerpo que arrastra a tirones a un alma. Aquí sí hay confusión sobre mí, en parte del público y de la crítica, sin que falten espíritus sagaces que me vean como entiendo ser.[12]

[I have always thought that I would one day make a self-analysis of my work; I am not an erotic, totally unconstrained, a sponge of life. Passionate, why not? But passion can be clear, spiritual, without malice. I am a soul that rules a body, not a body that yanks about my soul. Here there really is confusion concerning me, both by the public and the critics, even though there are some wise spirits who see me as I understand myself.]

Storni's response to the interviewer's question "¿ Cómo reparte Ud. su tiempo?" [how do you spend your time?] reflects one of the facts of her life, the financial hardship that kept her busy with the effort to earn enough to support herself and her son. She answered, "Muy sencillamente. Trabajo, vuelvo a trabajar; trabajo de nuevo. ¡ Divertidísimo!" [I work, I go back to work, I work once more. What fun!]. Such responses are revealing, for although perhaps exaggerated, they reveal her interest in deflating the image of the poet of the ivory tower, the writer dedicated to cultivating art for art's sake. And in this regard Storni shows her awareness of her links with working people, her impatience with the creation of the myth of the writer removed from mundane concerns.

The intense activity of Storni's life can be seen by the review of some vital facts. Born in Switzerland, she was brought at the age of four years (in 1896) to Argentina, where her family lived first in San Juan and then in the province of Santa Fe.[13] Storni studied in the escuela normal in Coronda and received the title of maestra , and in her early years she worked briefly as an actress. (She returned to the theater later in her career, writing full-length


drama and children's theater.) In 1911 she took a teaching position in Rosario, where she began to publish some of her poetry and was active in a women's group. In 1912 she arrived in Buenos Aires, where her son was born.

The story of Storni's early life reflects many of the demographic trends of her place and epoch. Like so many other immigrant and native-born women, she began to work outside the home. Even her status as unwed mother was not as unusual as it may seem to later observers, for about 22 percent of the children born in Argentina between 1914 and 1919 were born to single mothers, with the rate being much higher in the provinces.[14] Yet while it may not have been an uncommon occurrence in general, it was not common in the circles in which Storni moved.

In Buenos Aires she first worked at various jobs, in a glove factory, as a cashier, and as an office worker in an importing firm.[15] Her first book, La inquietud del rosal , was published in 1916. In a speech given in Montevideo in 1938, sharing a platform with the two other major female poets of her time, Gabriela Mistral and Juana de Ibarbourou, Storni relates the beginnings of her literary career, with her first poems at the age of twelve years:

Desde esa edad [12] hasta los 15, trabajo para viviry ayudar a vivir. De los 15 a los 18, estudio de maestra y me recibo Dios sabe cómo. La cultura que en la Normal absorbo para en Andrade, Echeverría, Campoamor. . . .

A los 19 estoy encerrada en una oficina: me acuna una canción de teclas; las mamparas de madera se levantan como diques más allá de mi cabeza; barras de hielo refrigeran el aire a mis espaldas; el sol pasa por el techo pero no puedo verlo; bocanadas de asfalto caliente entran por los vanos y la campanilla del tranvía llama distante.

Clavada en mi sillón, al lado de un horrible aparato para imprimir discos dictando órdenes y correspondencia a la mecanógrafa, escribo mi primer libro de versos, un pésimo libro de versos. ¡ Dios te libre, amigo mío, de La inquietud del Rosal ! . . . Pero lo escribí para no morir.[16]

[From that age until 15, I work to live and to help others live. From 15 to 18, I study to be a teacher and graduate, God knows how. The culture I absorb in Normal College stops with Andrade, Echeverrfa, Campoamor. . . .

At 19 I am enclosed in an office: a song of keys taps out a lullaby, wood screens rise up like dikes above my head; bars of ice chill the air at my back; the sun passes through the roof but I can't see it; mouthfuls of hot asphalt enter through openings and the little streetcar bell calls out from a distance.

Stuck to my chair, beside a horrible apparatus that prints records dictating orders and correspondence to the typist, I write my first book of verses, an awful book of verses. May God spare you, my friend, from La inquietud del Rosal ! . . . But I wrote it so I wouldn't die.]

Citing from the poem "Bien pudiera ser" from her third book, Irremediablemente (which she judged "también malo," or also bad), she contrasts the


poem's message of the ancestral and silenced pain of women with the more personal nature of her early poems. Leaving the evaluations of collective versus personal inspiration to others, she does state that her presence at the gathering in Montevideo signifies

un homenaje a la uruguaya y a la chilena; a Gabriela y Juana, y en ellas mi adhesión a la mujer escritora de América; mi fervor por su heroísmo cuya borra conozco y mi recuerdo inclinado para las mayores desaparecidas y las que, ausentes corporalmente en esta tribuna, están en ella por el valor magnífico de sus obras.[17]

[A homage to the Uruguayan and the Chilean; to Gabriela and Juana, and my adherence to the woman writer of America; my fervor for her heroism, whose erasure I know, and my remembrance of the disappeared older ones, and those who, physically absent in this tribunal, are in it because of the magnificent value of their works.]

The solidarity with other women, especially women writers, is a constant trait often noted in histories and testimonies of Storni's life and work. Manuel Gálvez, an associate since her first contributions to Nosotros in 1918, applauded her active support of other women writers in his tribute of 1938:

Una cosa que prueba la excelencia de su corazón es su generosidad para con las demás escritoras. Juzgó hasta con entusiasmo a las que pudieran ser rivales suyas en la poesía. . . . Prologó a tal cual escritora que se iniciaba. Y a otras las guió, las aconsejó, las vinculó a los medios literarios. El no tener envidias es propio de los grandes escritores, de aquellos que presienten la perduración de su obra.[18]

[Something that proves the excellence of her heart is her generosity with other women writers. She even judged enthusiastically those who could be her rivals in poetry. . . . She wrote prologues for any writer who was just getting started. And she guided, advised, and connected them to the literary media. Not being envious is a trait of great writers, of those who sense the endurance of their works.]

Rachel Phillips, in her excellent study on Storni's poetry, points out that the years 1916–1925, when her first four volumes of poetry were published, "were the crucial years of establishing herself and fighting for a living."[19] Phillips also notes the apparent contradictions between the type of poetry that Storni wrote in this period and the activities of her life. She attributes the sentimentalism of the poetry to the exigencies of the commercial market and to Storni's impoverished circumstances. Whatever the reasons may have been (and Storni herself gives various reasons), it is clear that the poems do not reflect many of the concerns of the young Storni or the wide range of her public activities.


Storni's collaboration with other women in the public sphere began very early in Santa Fe, where she contributed to periodicals and was named vice-president of the Comité Feminista de Santa Fe.[20] In Buenos Aires in 1912, where she found work and began to publish her first articles in Caras y Caretas ,[21] she also participated in feminist activities. One of her friends, Carolina de Muzzili (1889–1917), was director of the Tribuna Femenina one of Argentina's first feminist periodicals, and in 1914 Storni participated in a benefit recital for Muzzili's publication land her crusading work in behalf of working-class women and child laborers.[22] Muzzili, a self-taught socialist from the working class, was the first woman official of the Departamento Nacional del Trabajo, a position earned by her work in child labor and women's labor rights.[23] In 1916 Storni and Muzzili again appeared together in Rosario, where Storni spoke on women's education and gave poetry recitals, as she did in Buenos Aires at meetings sponsored by the Socialist Party.

María del Carmen Feijóo, in her studies of feminist movements in Argentina, divides the evolution of women's activism in the first half of the twentieth century in three cycles.[24] The first cycle, up to the beginning of World War I, centered upon the woman worker, especially the factory worker, whose struggle must be understood in the context of the ideological struggle between anarchists and socialists. The second period extends from the beginning of World War I until the military coup of 1930. During this period the women's movement focused on the civil and political rights of women. In the third stage, 1930–1947 (the year in which women gained the right to vote), the focus was more exclusively on women's suffrage. It was during the second period, when debates raged over the legal rights of women, that Storni established herself as a poet and wrote the journalistic pieces that so often reflect the debate over women's rights.

In Argentina, feminist organizations directed themselves to women's suffrage, especially after the first elections in 1916 under the Ley Sáenz Peña, which granted universal male suffrage.[25] The Argentine Socialist Party was a long-term ally of women's rights and since 1903 had included a platform supporting women's equality.[26] Alicia Moreau de Justo (1885–1986), a doctor, teacher, and founder and director of several organizations and magazines, was unquestionably the central figure in the women's movement within socialism, and her lifework became a symbol of intelligent and tireless leadership and service.[27] When the Socialist Party decided in 1918 to centralize the fight for women's suffrage, she served as president of the new Unión Feminista Nacional.

In 1919, the Partido Feminista Nacional came into being under the direction of Julieta Lanteri-Renshaw. Although without much hope of winning elections, this party did make an important symbolic impact by bringing women's suffrage, civil rights, and labor issues directly to the public's attention. In the same year, Storni published articles on both suffrage and civil


rights, as will be examined later. The year 1919 also witnessed the first number of Nuestra Causa , a monthly journal founded by Alicia Moreau to serve as a forum for feminist groups and as the organ of the Unión Feminista Nacional. Storni participated in events sponsored by the journal and the organization; in 1921, Nuestra Causa recorded a program in her honor given by the Unión after she won the municipal prize for poetry.[28] Storni's efforts in the relief effort for victims of World War I in Europe led to an association with Moreau. According to Storni, World War I marked the end of an epoch for women, initiating radical changes in cultural and social values because of its revelations about the bankruptcy of patriarchal culture.[29] While she was not an active member of any political party, it is clear, given her participation in feminist activities and labor rights meetings, that she was fully aware of the political questions of her day and was outspoken in her support of these causes.

In 1918 Storni was one of the leaders of the Asociación pro Derechos de la Mujer, initiated by Elvira Rawson de Dellepiane (1867–1954), a physician, an educator, and one of the founders of the early Centro Feminista.[30] Among the goals of this group (whose numbers grew to eleven thousand) were the abolition of laws that established different standards for men and women, the advancement of women to directive positions in the educational system, the enactment of laws protective of motherhood, the eradication of prostitution, and equality of jobs and salaries. On this last issue Storni is especially vehement in her journalistic writings, often pointing out the reality of numbers of working women in the nation and their inequality in salary and in job opportunities. Some of these articles, such as "La perfecta dactilógrafa" [the perfect typist], in La Nación , 1920, and "¿ Por qué las maestras se casan poco?" [why do few teachers marry?] in La Nación , 1921, use satire and humor to raise serious issues. For example, in "La perfecta dactilógrafa," Storni gives the "recipe" for the perfect typist:

Elíjase unajoven de 18 a 21 años que viva en una casa de departamentos de cualquier apartado barrio. Píntesele discretamente los ojos. Oxígenesele el cabello. Púlasele las uñas. Córtesele un trajecito a la moda, bien corto. Comprímasele el estómago. . . . Póngasele un pájaro dentro de la cabeza (si es azul, mejor). Envíesela durante dos o tres meses a una academia comercial. (Hasta de cinco, pesos por mes.) Téngasela luego pendiente de avisos comerciales durante uno, dos o tres años. Empléesela por poca cosa.[31]

[Select a young woman from eighteen to twenty-one years old who lives in an apartment building in any distant neighborhood. Discreetly paint her eyes. Bleach her hair. File her nails. Tailor her a fashionable little suit, quite short. Flatten her stomach. . . . Put a bird inside her head (better a blue one). Send her to a commercial academy for two or three months. (Up to five pesos per month.) Then keep her waiting on commercial ads for one, two or three years. Hire her for very little.]


In the 1920s, ironic articles like "La perfecta dactilógrafa" from the series "Bocetos Femeninos" in La Nación found space among the recipe columns, fashion photographs, society notes, church news, and items of general cultural interest. Without neglecting the constraints of this journalistic medium, she inserted a record of the less visible aspects of a large, low-salaried group of female employees. Reaching a group of readers who might not read specifically feminist publications, she presented her opinions. In this series for La Nación she wrote under the pseudonym "Tao Lao," while in the series of La Nota , "Femenidades," and in other publications, she signed with her own name.

By 1920, having published in some of the major periodicals of her day (Caras y Caretas, Atlántida, La Nota, Nosotros ), Storni began to work as a regular contributor to La Nación , the major daily newspaper, where she continued to publish articles until her death in 1938. At the same time she was working as a teacher in public and private schools. Her journalistic production during this period calls attention to the major issues of the women of her epoch. As the following discussion of a selection of her journalistic writings shows, she was concerned with almost all areas of women's experience. Her articles often return to certain central issues: working women and their occupations, the relationship of women to national and cultural tradition, the role of the church, single mothers, marriage, good and bad models of motherhood, female poverty, migration to the city, fashion, and discussions of the "innate" characteristics of the female nature. Observations on class distinctions and references to the role of the teacher recur with regular frequency.

According to Storni, religion, poverty, and patriarchy are closely linked. For example, in "La carta al Padre Eterno" [letter to the Eternal Father] of 1919 she relates existing legal structures to church doctrines:

Sabemos ya que desde el punto de vista moderno, filosófico, diré, las Sagradas Escrituras son anti-feministas, y las leyes por las que nos regimos, inspiradas en gran parte en aquellas, anti-feministas también.

Pero toda mujer que entrara, a considerarlas, en pro o en contra se volvería feminista, porque lo que por aquellas le está negado es pensar con la cabeza y por algunas de éstas, obrar con su voluntad.[32]

[We now know that from the modern, what I would call philosophic point of view, the Sacred Scriptures are antifeminist, and the laws we rule ourselves by, inspired in great part by them, are also antifeminist.

But every woman who might begin to consider them, either for or against, would become a feminist, because what they deny her is thinking with her head and, because of some of these laws, acting with her own will.]

The topic of patriarchy and moral standards returns in articles concerning women's poverty and the status of the unwed mother in "La complejidad femenina" [feminine complexity], in which she outlines the psychology of the roles of dominator and dominated.[33]


Other articles such as "En contra de la caridad" [against charity], in La Nota , 1919, and "Derechos civiles femeninos" [women's civil rights], in La Nota , 1919, are more straightforward in their vehement criticism of social norms and legal sanctions involving women. In "Derechos civiles femeninos" Storni calls for not only the vote for women but also equal protection under the law, so that such a vote might have practical worth. Both of these articles are related to women's struggle to reform the Civil Code—a major feature of Argentine feminism until 1926, when the reforms were won. Saying that women lead "una vida colonial" [a colonial life], she notes especially the necessary duplicity of the unmarried mother.

Sabido es que esta mujer, madre de un ser humano, que ha de servir a la sociedad en igual forma que los llamados hijos legítimos, no tiene protección alguna de la ley, ni del concepto público, ni de la tolerancia social.

La mujer en estas condiciones, si quiere educar al niño, mantenerlo a su lado, ha de usar de subterfugios, recurrir a falsedades, envilecerse de cobardía. . . . Para el hombre cómplice en la vida de un ser no hay sanción ni legal, ni moral. Hay más; ni siquiera está obligado económicamente a nada.

Esto es un resabio del Cristianismo mitificado.[34]

[We know that this woman, mother of a human being, who must serve society in the same way as the so-called legitimate children, has no protection whatsoever under the law, or of public regard, or of social tolerance.

The woman in these conditions, if she wants to educate the child, keep him at her side, has to turn to subterfuges and falsehoods, and vilify herself with cowardice. . . . For the accomplice male of this life of a human being there is neither legal nor moral sanction. Even more; he is not even obligated economically for anything.

This is a leftover of mythified Christianity.]

In another article of 1919, "El movimiento hacia la emancipación de la mujer en la República Argentina: las dirigentes feministas" [the women's emancipation movement in Argentina: the feminist leaders], Storni also points out that the Socialist Party was the only one that currently included the vote for women as part of its platform. Tracing the history of the feminist movement in Argentina, she describes the movement's leaders, outlines the goals of the different branches of the movement, and gives statistical evidence of women's participation in the labor force.[35] In her discussion of political support for the movement, she states that the Socialist Party has played an important role in spreading the suffrage movement throughout the working class.

Storni speaks out against the institutionalization of charity and the social structures that force the creation of such institutions in the article "En contra de la caridad": "Sabido tenemos que hay un concepto bien generalizado en las organizaciones sociales defectuosas: crear el pobre para darle la limosna"[36] [we know that in defective social organizations there is a well-


generalized concept: create the poor so you can give them charity]. Storni called for wiser legislation that would oblige society to create means to provide for the needs of its citizens.

In "Un tema viejo" [an old theme] Storni calls feminism a collective transformation, a sign of the defeat of masculine directives, and a natural state of human evolution:

Reírse del feminismo, por eso, me parece tan curioso como reírse de un dedo porque termina en una uña. Para llegar a lo que llamamos feminismo la humanidad ha seguido un proceso tan exacto como el que sigue el embrión para Ilegar a ser fruto o el fruto para transformar sus elementos en embrión, a pasos sucesivos.[37]

[Therefore to laugh at feminism seems to me as strange as laughing at your finger because it has a fingernail. To arrive at what we call feminism humanity has followed a process as exact as the one an embryo follows to become a fruit, or for a fruit to transform its elements into an embryo, by successive steps.]

Arguing with those who attack feminism and who cite "authorities" such as classical precedents and biblical teachings, Storni counters that feminism is "una cuestión de justicia."

In her writings Storni claims that she is not a militant feminist, even though those same writings reflect her support of many proposed legal and social changes regarding women. The writings for La Nota (especially in 1918 and 1919), where she directed the column "Femenidades," as well as her other journalistic writings of that period, are notable for their partisan stance. Besides dealing with the civil status of women and other social issues, stance gives ironic commentary on female fashion—the corset, "suicidal" high heels—in articles interspersed with sketches, poems, and short stories that generally reflect a more sentimental type of popular literature, with their intense appeal to "el desengaño en el amor" [disillusionment with love] and to elaborate backdrops of interior setting and dress.

With some striking exceptions, the column "Bocetos Femeninos" in La Nación responded to the demands of the commercial press. The form of the "sketch," which Storni often uses, makes few claims to permanence. These pieces are often impressionistic observations with highly personalized judgments. In a kind of urban adaptation of the travelogue, they record vignettes of daily life in Buenos Aires—the subway crowds, shoppers, female "types" (the domestic employee, the provincial, the secretary, the schoolgirl, the shopper, the mother)—in a chatty tone with frequent asides to the reader. The tone of these short essays varies widely. Some are breezy and humorous, while others are straightforward accounts of noteworthy topics concerning women, such as the recent census figures on occupational divisions for women or the marital status of the citizenry. They gain their appeal by mixing trite feminine stereotypes with issues of basic economic and social concern to women.


In some of these articles it is easy to see Storni's own personal issues, especially in her concern for the financial and professional insecurity of schoolteachers ("La maestra" and "¿ Por qué las maestras se casan poco?"), the hypocrisy surrounding virginity ("La novia"), and society's excessive emphasis on female beauty ("La impersonal" and "Las crepusculares"). While she is often eloquent in her defense of women, she can be aggressively disparaging of many aspects of women's culture. Pretense, slavish imitation, and obsessive romanticism, specifically the fixation on marriage ("Las casaderas" [marriage brokers] and "El amor y la mujer" [love and the woman]), are targets of satirical exposés.

In "Las casaderas" (8 August 1920: 4) Storni calls for reader responses to her hypothetical marriage agency, which would solicit unmarried men (even from other planets) to match with husband-seeking women. Her reaction to the responses she received serves as the starting point for "El amor y la mujer" (22 August 1920: 6). With tongue in cheek, she salutes her readers as eternal romantics:

Regocijáos por lo pronto, de ser todavía las celosas vestales del romanticismo (es muy lindo ser vestal; el tul blanco cae divinamente y lame el rosado pie con delicada gracia).

Vuestra imaginación se interpone así entre la realidad y el sueño como un elástico de poderosa resistencia que apaga y suaviza los choques.

[Rejoice, meanwhile, for still being the jealous priestesses of romanticism (it's very nice to be a priestess; white tulle falls divinely and licks your rosy foot with delicate grace).

Your imagination inserts itself between reality and dream like a rubber band of powerful resistance that stops and softens blows.]

Storni uses the same article to respond to assertions by "malas plumas" [evil pens] that women are directed soleiy by instinct in their philosophy of love and that they lack the intellectual capacity to observe life objectively in its just equilibrium:

Así comparan la condición voluptuosa de la mujer a la de ciertas razas inferiores que viven solamente para amar y satisfacer sus pasiones, y hasta pretenden que el alto sentimiento de la maternidad es instinto puro.

[Thus they compare the voluptuous condition of woman to that of certain inferior races that live only to love and satisfy their passions, and they even claim that the lofty maternal sentiment is pure instinct.]

As in so many other articles, here Storni speaks from several different angles, using a highly embellished rhetoric common to many columnists. Addressing her female readers as "mis dulces amiguitas lectoras," "oh divinas," "adorables mujeres," and "pequeñas amigas," Storni as "Tao Lao" tackles many of the popular myths about women without, however, running too much risk of alienating the casual reader.


The column at times became the space for facetious debate, as in "El amor y la mujer," where she repeats the generalizations directed at woman's condition—"el lastre de la humanidad, la fuente, el pozo sentimental y básico" [the ballast of humanity, the fountain, the sentimental and basic well], in contrast to the lofty flights of masculine thought. She does not openly contest such generalizations, but immediately transforms the image of the soaring flight of the male into the indecorous plummeting of a "pollito mojado" [damp little chick]. Anticipating a defensive reaction from her readers, she states: "no os temo enojadas, sino mansas y suaves" [I don't fear you angry, but meek and gentle].

One of her favorite topics was fashion and women's devotion to it. In many articles on this topic Storni reveals contradictory impulses, or at least plays on those of her readers. While she denounces fashion's excesses and the often pathetic and ludicrous lengths to which women will go to serve this master, she shows a keen eye for details of dress and, more revealingly, what these details show about their wearers. Dress is the code to which she most commonly refers when discussing the ascent up the ladder of social class. Street scenes of Buenos Aires and commentary on social customs reveal her ambivalence toward Buenos Aires, as do many poems of her early period. References to the city's sacrifices to impersonal norms, its rapidity of movement, the rule of "vanity and pride," and a scale of values based on money and class—complaints registered by most urban observers of all periods—alternate with expressions of clear delight in the variety of human types and idiosyncrasies. The frequent idealization of provincial life is countered by depictions of the movement, color, and freedom of the city.

Storni's eye for the ridiculous and the pathetic often fastened on the cult of imitation that circulated in "la pequeña ciudad que de gran ciudad oficia" [the little city that acts as a big city], as in "La impersonal" (27 June 1920: 4). Here she scolds the female who is devoid of originality and "real sentiment":

Es la muchacha que imita a sus heroínas de novela, y se suicida por un fútil amorío, o lleva en verano sombrero de terciopelo, y en invierno zapato de seda; es la mucama que imita el peinado de su señora y la señora que imita a la esfinge desde un palco caro, y la empleada que quiere ser confundida con la nifiabien, y la niñabien que se viste como su artista preferida, y la artista que se empeña en parecer una colegiala, y la colegiala que une a su cabello suelto los tacos desmesurados. . . .

Y si la impersonal es completamente pobre, caerá en la ridiculez de dar las formas más novedosas a telas viejas y ajadas, arrastrando así, sobre su propio cuerpo, la tristeza de su pobre alma expuesta a la mirada aguda del que pasa.

[She is the girl who imitates her novelistic heroines, and commits suicide because of a futile love affair, or who wears a velvet hat in summer, and silk shoes in winter; she is the maid who imitates the hairdo of the lady of the house and the lady who imitates the Sphinx from a theater box, and the shopgirl who


wants to be taken for the rich girl, and the rich girl who dresses like her favorite actress, and the actress who strives to look like a schoolgirl, and the schoolgirl who wears her flowing hair with extremely high heels. . . .

And if the impersonal one is completely poor, she will be so ridiculous as to give the newest forms to old and worn-out fabrics, dragging along, on her own body, the sadness of her poor soul exposed to the sharp gaze of the passerby.]

In "Las crepusculares" she records the late afternoon pilgrimage to the downtown fashion stores in the Calle Florida. The "damitas" [little ladies] referred to by the synecdoche of their "zapatitos" [little shoes] cluster together, reverently awaiting a fashion show. Her use of diminutives is telling, as is her coy address to her feminine readers in the satirical articles—"oh divinas." Her sharp jabs at class and economic distinctions are hard to miss, and their juxtaposition to the society notes makes them especially acute. Alternating a highly embellished rhetoric with a spare, direct style, she usually makes her point in no uncertain terms.

In "La emigrada" Storni gives a sympathetic composite portrait of the young women who arrive alone in the city from the provinces to make their way "en las grandes ciudades como criada familiar o en los institutos de salud e higiene como mucama" [in the big cities as a domestic maid or in health and hygiene institutes as a maid] (La Nación , 1 August 1920: 2). She recounts a newcomer's growing awareness as the "María, Juana, Rosa, etc." begins to adapt to a new setting. In a short but richly detailed piece, she captures a scene so common to her day and to ours, the migration to Latin American cities of women alone or with their children. Such a young woman, reared in a rural setting without reading or writing skills, accustomed to turning her wages over to her elders, arrives in the city with a sealed envelope, whose contents she cannot read. The limitless possibilities of the city dazzle her:

La ciudad produce en la emigrada rápidos efectos: como una planta transplantada que no sabe qué hacer con la exótica savia que recibe, se resuelve de golpe por dar un estirón hacia arriba.

[The city produces rapid effects in the emigrant: like a transplanted plant that doesn't know what to do with the exotic sap it receives, she suddenly resolves to grow straight upward.]

The most common initial transformation of the transplant is superficial—fancy shoes, costume jewelry, and flashy clothes. The second phase is one of growing pains, as she begins to observe and to imitate not her peers (her roommates) but the family for whom she works. She learns to search not for the trappings of prosperity but for the means to a better income, and she asks for a raise. The "emigrada" learns the lessons of the city, unlearning the lessons of her place of origin, whose "árboles del camino podrían decir: la que pasa se llama María, o Juana, o, Rosa, pero, los árboles, de Buenos Aires


sólo dicen que la que pasa es una libreta de ahorros" [trees along the road could say: that one going by is María, or Juana, or Rosa, but the trees of Buenos Aires only say she is a little bank book]. The marks of class and social categories are nearly always present in Storni's journalistic writings. Even though most of her articles focus on personality or character types, economic and social status is the thread that unites her writings.

Occupational divisions among women are a frequent theme of her journalism, especially in La Nación . Based on census statistics in the capital ("Las mujeres que trabajan," La Nación , 20 June 1920: 3), she records the percentage of women engaged in each occupation. Her statistics give some idea of why women's rights groups were so active during this time, for almost half of all salaried employees were women, "más mujeres de las que a simple vista se sospecharía" [more women than one would imagine at first glance]. For her it is no surprise that most domestic employees would be women, or that the great majority of educators were women. Seventy thousand women worked in industry, while the figures plummeted for the fine arts, letters, and science, and even for commerce, where most were clerical workers. In another article, "Las heroínas" (La Nación , 20 April 1920: 5), Storni adopts a much more bantering style to describe the women who worked as the sole representatives of their gender in certain occupations, such as furniture polisher or coal deliverer.

Some occupations receive special attention in these articles, like the secretary in the previously cited piece. The teacher, the doctor, the domestic employee, and even the watercolorist (singled out for her irregularity of salary) constitute part of the gallery of contemporary portraits. Storni's own profession through her adult life, that of teacher, receives special treatment. She devotes two articles in La Nación , "La normalista" (13 June 1920: 1) and "¿ Por qué las maestras se casan poco?" (13 March 1921: 4), to this topic. The first is a fanciful interview with the following interlocutors: a sheet of paper, a Frenchman, a tree in the botanical garden, a public employee, the popular masses, and the "normalista" herself. The latter is unequivocal in her opinions:

Opino sobre mí misma lo siguiente: que soy pobre. Que estudio con sacrificio para ayudar a los míos y quisiera obtener el puesto a que me da derecho mi título sin formar en este hilo interminable de postulantes. Afirmo que soy inteligente y capaz.

[I have the following opinion of myself: I am poor. I study at a sacrifice to help out my own family and I'd like to get a job my degree entitles me to without standing in that interminable line of candidates. I affirm that I am intelligent and capable.]

The normalista defends herself against her "cowardice" in bucking the system, because she fears expulsion if she criticizes the educational administration. As further justification of an apparent immobility, she ends with clear logic:


"Y por último: mi madre es viuda y mis hermanos están desnudos" [and finally, my mother is a widow and my brothers and sisters are naked].

Teachers are the one group that almost never provokes ironic commentary from Storni. It is clear that her own work as a teacher, and her admiration for other women teachers, is a matter of great pride. "¿ Por qué las maestras se casan poco?" is another version of the traditional story of "la mujer que sabe latín," a topic still highly debated in contemporary society. Storni definitely sees this situation as a problem worthy of serious attention. Her analysis of economic, intellectual, social, and moral factors ends with no solution, but with a vindication of the superior qualities of the profession's members. Education marks a step up on the social scale, but offers little economic advancement or acceptance by more highly paid professionals. The serious discussion she devotes to the topic shows her concern for this emerging class of women, and perhaps a preoccupation with her own situation: "por lo que está en condiciones de leer, de adquirir, aspira a más de lo que su medio social le permitiría" [given that her condition allows her to read, to acquire things, she aspires to more than her social milieu will allow her].

In "La médica" (La Nación , 18 July 1920: 6), Storni reflects on some of the causes central to feminists of her day. In an article without apparent ironies, she notes the importance of women physicians as leaders in the women's movement:

Médicas son, en efecto, casi todas las mujeres que en nuestro país encabezan el movimiento de ideas femenino más radical, y médicas son las que abordan las cuestiones más escabrosas: problema sexual, trata de blancas, etc.

[Women doctors are, in fact, most of the women in our country who head the most radical women's movement and take on the most scabrous questions: sexual problems, white slavery, etc.]

She includes here a discussion of women's modesty, pudor , the type she calls "the same modesty of the slave," without free will or independent criteria, which limits women's abilities to care for themselves. The article, not really an examination of the world of the female physician, is a meditation on moral liberty. Here she asserts that "elasticidad ideológica" and tolerance are the marks of a highly evolved moral system. Physicians, therefore, by their direct confrontation with human pain and problems, represent a higher state that all women "will understand easily some day." Like many of the feminist arguments of the day, Storni's final statement appeals to motherhood as the basis for reclaiming equal rights: "y es por eso que, en nombre del derecho de la maternidad, un pequeño grupo de mujeres pide ya la igualdad moral para ambos sexos" [and that is why, in the name of the rights of motherhood, a small group of women calls for moral equality for both sexes].

While she is a staunch defender of women's rights, Storni is not always tolerant of all aspects of women's culture, nor does she accept wholeheartedly


the idea of the equality of the sexes. More traditional in her approach to women's roles than some of her feminist colleagues and friends, she sees biological destiny as the major force for women. Instinctive motherhood, an innate sensitivity to human emotional needs, and a capacity for sacrifice are traits she attributes to her sex. Certain behavioral patterns associated with women, however, come under sarcastic attack. Sentimentalism and superficial rigidity in-moral standards are two of her favorite topics. These two traits impede women from taking a "philosophical" view of their roles, inhibiting them in their search for self-development.

Articles from La Nación such as "La mujer enemiga de la mujer" (22 May 1921: 4) and "La mujer como novelista" (27 March 1921: 4) illustrate her position. Even though she was insistent about making a place for herself and for other women in literary circles in Buenos Aires (a fact never omitted from her biographies is that she was the first woman to attend literary banquets there, an action that met with no little resistance), she claims that women have not evolved sufficiently to be effective in certain spheres of action. As she so often does, she recurs to "principios filosóficos" to explain her position, although the basis of these philosophical premises is never presented. In both these articles she cites lack of experience as the determining factor in women's incapacitics: In "La mujer enemiga de la mujer," she says: "A falta de educación del carácter, y a carencia de buena disciplina mental, hay que achacar tanta enemistad de mujer a mujer" [so much enmity from one woman to another must be attributed to a lack of character training, and to absence of good mental discipline].

Women's often-cited lack of generosity with one another could be remedied by attention to their training, by forming a type of sisterhood that would train them to uphold standards of virtue with more compassion and less harshness and hypocrisy. The price paid for rigid adherence to uncompromising standards indicates to her the female's greatest weakness, for "si la virtud ha costado tanto para conservarla que endurece el alma y la cierra para comprender cualquier error, entonces tanto valía no tenerla" [if virtue costs so much to conserve that it hardens the heart and closes it to understanding any error, then it is not worth having].

Despite the measured tone and appeal to reason that she creates, it is apparent that Storni speaks from the most acute personal awareness. Although she gained growing acceptance as a writer, was sought after as a speaker, and became known as a successful teacher, this kind of acceptance did not always transfer into the social sphere. As many of her contemporaries have recorded, she could not be welcomed into many "respectable" homes, even though she might associate with the same families in the public sphere. Her condition as unwed mother created barriers that not even her talents and energetic efforts could overcome.

"La mujer como novelista" is a troubling article for a reader who might


search for a consistent and unequivocal defense of the woman artist in Storni's work. Her generalized remarks on the recent proliferation of novels by women lead to the conclusion that she saw a dubious future for women as novelists. Not only does she find women lacking the range of lived experience necessary "para observar el mundo con ojos claros y penetradores" [to observe the world with clear and penetrating eyes] but she also implies that the very sensibility that is their greatest gift can bring about their undoing as novelists: "si la sensibilidad femenina es rica, la sensibilidad pura no basta para la obra de arte" [even if feminine sensibility is rich, pure sensibility is not sufficient for a work of art]. Granted, women with fortune may be permitted to live the sort of life that permits them to break with expected norms and experiment more fully with other types of existence. Yet the same liberty robs them of their most treasured possession, their feminine nature: "Luego, una vida extraordinaria destruye en la mujer lo que la hace más preciada: su feminidad" [then, an extraordinary life destroys in woman the very thing that makes her most prized: her femininity].

In this article, Storni appears to go against many of the ideas she has established in other articles. Here woman is limited by her narrow range of experience, but breaking these limits makes her less womanly. In this respect the article is a notable link in her writings, forecasting some of the positions she would adopt later. Even more interesting, it reveals a link between her journalism, outspoken in defense of women's liberties, and her short prose fiction pieces of the period, which largely cling to the sentimental romantic plots that she finds to be the inescapable lot of the woman novelist.

Sentimentality, nonetheless, and an unrealistically romanticized view of reality (two of the main criticisms leveled at her early poetry) are targets of derision many times in these columns. "Confidencias populates" (La Nación , 20 March 1921: 4), a discussion of popular magazines, gives her an opportunity to examine the tone of this genre.

The image of woman as a mother and as the anchor of the family unit serves Storni as her rationale for the ethics of sexual equality. Such a position reflects that of many feminist activists during this period. She embraces the exaltation of motherhood, even though it leads her to some contradictory approaches. Many of her arguments find their logic by recalling women's importance and contributions in traditional roles, such as those found in rural societies. For instance, in "La selección de judías" (La Nación , 2 June 1920: 4), here referring to the common bean and not to a racial or religious group, she emphasizes the collective nature of women's work in an agrarian society. She reminds her readers of the "double day" involved in women's work:

Sabido es ya que las mujeres campesinas en todos los países y en todos los tiempos (antes y después del feminismo) han trabajado a la par del hombre en


las más rudas tareas agrícolas y por veces con doble sacrificio, repartiendo su día entre las tareas maternales y caseras y la fuerte labor campesina.

[We already know that peasant women in all countries and all times (before and after feminism) have worked equally with men in the roughest agricultural tasks and often with double sacrifice, dividing their day between maternal and household tasks and hard field labor.]

Storni often refers back to a golden age of tradition where women were accorded their rightful place. In "Sobre nosotros" (La Nota 94, [May 26, 1917: 1865–1866) she proposes to analyze why the crowds of Buenos Aires are rude and why women suffer such discourtesy. Her thesis rests on the fact that, as a city of immigrants, Buenos Aires has not had time to develop a collective spiritual culture, because "la cultura colectiva descansa en el cariño a la tierra, a la historia, al hogar, a la ley, al porvenir" [collective culture rests on affection for the earth, history, the home, the law, the future].

Among other observations, she likens the development of a civic consciousness to the cohesion of the family unit:

¿ Exigiríamos de él [el pueblo] las consideraciones espontáneas que las mujeres recibiríamos si tuviera cabal concepto de la familia como institución primera de la colectividad, como asiento y fundamento de la raza?

[Would we demand from the people the spontaneous considerations that women would receive if we had a full concept of the family as the first institution of collectivity, as the basis and foundation of the race?]

At the same time that the family unit serves her as the basic metaphor of a healthy society, it is an almost mythic family, one she finds hard to reconcile with the facts of a newly created society in constant flux and change.

In other articles the family in particular raises uncomfortable issues. The image of the mother can be a problematic one, especially when she drops the straightforward analytic tone and veers toward fictional recreation. In "La madre" (La Nación , 11 November 1920: 2) the narrator discovers her shallow values when she is reproached by her cousin, the mother of two young children. The narrator must explore her unexamined favoritism of the beautiful daughter over the unattractive boy child, when she is faced with the mother's compassionate, though understated, humility and fairness.

In "Una tragedia de reyes" [a tragedy of kings] (La Nación , 9 January 1921: 6), a child's move into self-awareness and his distancing himself from his mother provoke a strange and violent reaction. Seeking to preserve the magic of the myth of Christmas gifts from the Wise Men, the mother shields him from the knowledge that these gifts are really from the parents. When she discovers that he is already aware of the parental ruse but maintains silence in order to keep receiving the best gifts, the mother's reaction is sharp and troubling: "Sintió náuseas; empujó violentamente al hijo de su lado y le


gritó amenazadora:—¡ Vete! ¡ Vete!" (she felt nauseated; she pushed the child violently from her side and shouted threateningly:—Get out! Get out!]. The story does not end with a summary of a moral lesson. As if in the dramatic end of a soap opera episode, the mother reacts to the fleeing, crying child by throwing herself on the bed: "lloró también, y sin sollozos, lágrimas lentas, frías, e interminables" [she also cried, soundlessly, slow, cold and interminable tears].

"La dama de negro" (La Nota 4, 191, April 4, 1919: 427–428) combines several features of Storni's journalism. A vignette of life in Buenos Aires joins with her moralizing on the mother's role and the baleful effects of a society obsessed with artifice and appearances. Here an excessively elegant lady with her five-year-old daughter is seated facing the narrator in the subway. On a second look, the narrator notices that the child has been transformed by her mother into a rather dirty and "cheap doll." With her bleached hair and painted cheeks, the child reflects a pathetic case of the vanity and dislocation of values the city so often presents. The scene brings to mind the case of a woman on trial who tried to commit suicide by flinging herself into the water with her two children; she succeeded in killing them but not herself. The narrator finds the attempted suicide more honorable than the subway child's deformation at her mother's hands. Like the obsession with matrimony, the relentless search for beauty and appearances, at great social loss, is highlighted constantly in Storni's articles. While the forms vary, from direct moralizing to sentimental tales with tragic endings, her aim is clear.

In reading the journalism by Storni, it becomes evident that these texts not only reveal unexplored facets of her personality and professional life but also cast light on the cultural and social milieu of her time. They give us an entrance into the coexistence of several versions of feminism and show the interrelationships among feminism, the popular press, literary movements, and the emergence of a middle-class female reader.

As Storni moved into the mainstream of intellectual life in Buenos Aires (or at least into certain sectors of that life), the topic of feminism became a less persistent theme in her journalism. Her writings in general reflect the tensions facing women of her class who found themselves in the midst of a rapidly changing society, where the realities of women's lives could no longer correspond to the reigning mythologies. These mythologies, so often reflected on the same pages of the newspapers and journals where Storni published her pieces, are brought into higher relief by their juxtaposition to Storni's articles.

Many of the women for whom Storni wrote came from a background like hers—children of immigrants who worked outside the home, some of whom were able to move into a growing middle-class sector via the teaching profession. And like her, many must have sensed the incongruities between their everyday realities and the weight of tradition. Although Storni herself is well


known as a public figure and as a poet, her links to the history of women of her lifetime deserve to be explored. New approaches to history, biography, and literature, making use of the extraliterary writings of prominent women writers, can offer a way to return such isolated figures to a lived history. In doing so, we not only discover important neglected works of well-known writers but are able as well to rethink our canons of literary and social history.

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Seven— The Journalism of Alfonsina Storni: A New Approach to Women's History in Argentina
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