Gabriela Mistral in the Top 100 of Women Who Changed the World

SANTIAGO – Gabriela Mistral, Chilean poet who frequently wrote about morality and maternity, has been voted inside the top 100 most influential women in the world. BBC History Magazine places her in the 50th spot. The list includes Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, and even Princess Diana.

After voting by experts form 10 different fields, she is placed in the 50th spot of 100 women who are considered to have been influential to the world. BBC Magazine comments that  “she received the Literature Nobel Prize in 1945, becoming the first Latin American author to receive the honour.”

Poet of the World

Born in Vicuña as Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, Chile, she worked as a teacher following her sister’s steps. Quickly she became inspired to keep developing and protecting children, and so she dedicated her first years to teaching and writing, sometimes conflicting with more conservative local social groups who qualified her work as “pagan” and “socialist”. She moved to Santiago, and later dedicated herself to teaching all around Chile.

In her early days she worked as a teacher and collaborated in literary publications. She adopted the pseudonym Gabriela Mistral for the first time in her poem Del Pasado published in the newspaper El Coquimbo in 1908. During this time she began writing Desolación and worked with the magazine Elegancias directed by Rubén Darío in Paris. By 1914 she won the Chilean National Poetry Award with Sonetos de la Muerte.

Educational reforms

Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral.

Aside from poetry, Gabriela dedicated herself to educational reforms and national libraries throughout the world. After asking for her help, Mexican president José Vasconcelos wrote in a telegram, “more convinced than ever that the best part of Mexico is in Chile.” In 1922, her career as an international persona started to grow, becoming a popular name in countries like Mexico, Spain, Argentina and the United States. During the 1930s, she lectured classes in the United States in schools such as Bernard College, Vassar College and Middlebury College. She also traveled Central America collaborating with universities in Puerto Rico, La Habana, and Panama. In 1933, she is named consulate of Chile in Madrid and traveled through Lisboa, Guatemala, France, Brazil, The United States, Mexico and Italy. Finally, by 1953 she got named Consulate of New York and Delegate of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Nobel Prize

Gabriela Mistral dedicated her life not just to poems and literature, but to education. She pursued a dream based on redefining public education to one that prioritized cultural, idea and thought diversity. She made the students the main subject of education, surpassing deep social inequalities. So, in 1945, the Swedish Academy decided to award Gabriela Mistral with the Nobel Literature Prize, which she signed with her literary name. By this time, she had three poetry books and a prose volume of about 300 to 400 texts published all over the world. The proses were dedicated to bring out the role of public education and the State, the teachers, the teaching process and childhood.

Following this prize, Chile also rewarded her with the National Literature Prize in 1951. She forever changed education in Chile, including demands for winter vacations, her fight to open schools for all social classes and her open objection of low teacher wages.

Forever Part of Chile

After a long fight with pancreatic cancer, Gabriela Mistral died on January 10th 1957. Since then, her various proses, songs, prayers and poems have been published as books. Her most popular are Motivos de San Francisco, Poema de Chile, and Lagar II. Chile’s National Library Writer’s Archive has one of the most important recollection of her works with over 563 pieces. These include manuscripts, epistolaries, photographies and other private documents.

The Top 100 List

Bust of Gabriela Mistral located in the neighborhood of Quinta Normal, Santiago, Chile.

She is the first Latin American woman to be placed in this list, highlighting just how important she was for countries like Chile and Mexico. The scientist Marie Curie takes the first place on the list. Her founding of the radioactive phenomenon and cancer treatments that derived from it have with no argument changed the world. Close in second, Rosa Parks represents race equality. The list goes on, right behind Gabriela Mistral is the famous Clara Barton. She was a nurse during the American Civil War and went on to establish the American Red Cross.

Gabriela Mistral is an important literary image, and even more so an inspiration to women in Latin America. The Cultural Center of Gabriela Mistral, created in her name, promotes the cultural arts and education in Santiago, Chile. It is home to a public library, art expositions and theater shows for all ages.


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