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August 2001
512 pages  

6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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Empowering Women
Land and Property Rights in Latin America
Deere, Carmen Diana, León, Magdalena
A comparative study of the impact of property ownership and women’s rights in twelve Latin American countries.

Winner of the 2003 Bryce Wood Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association.

Winner of the 2002 NECLAS Best Book Award from the New England Council of Latin American Studies.

Winner of the 2002 Latino Literary Hall of Fame Book Awards from the Latino Literary Hall of Fame.

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Carmen Diana Deere, past president of the Latin American Studies Association, is professor of economics and director of the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.
Magdalena León is a professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the National University of Colombia and currently a visiting scholar at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales in Quito, Ecuador.
“A call to action. . . . The degree of inequality which characterizes the position of rural women is shocking.”—Teresa Valdéz, researcher at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales–Chile

“An historic book. . . . Its singular importance is that it stresses the difference between formal and real equality of property and land rights, and the difference between access to and control over resources.”—Lourdes Arizpe, professor and researcher at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico–Cuernavaca

“Extremely well-documented and presenting multiple insights on the law of the Latin American states, especially the intersection between law and gender, the book is coherently divided into ten chapters ... Among the best features of the book is Deere and Leon’s comparative approach to the status of married women in Latin America and their counterparts in the United States and England in the early nineteenth century. ... The authors thoroughly succeed in demonstrating how far the notion of women’s formal equality before the law is from achieving gender equality in practice. Their study is very persuasive in showing the progress that has been made in the legal realm, as well as in recognizing that a considerable amount of work still has to be done in order to secure women with the control of productive assets, especially land property, which is the most effective means to reduce poverty that affects them greatly.”—The Law and Politics Book Review, 3/02

“With this comprehensive, well-documented study of women and property in Latin America, Deere and León have produced a landmark volume that will serve as a reference point in discussions about formal equality and actual practice in the region. ... useful for advanced students, scholars, practitioners, and social activists.”—Anita Rapone, History: Reviews of New Books, Summer 2002

“Reaching across the continent and over history, the book offers admirable scope and extensive detail on the changes in women’s land ownership.” —Leslie Anderson, APSR, December 2002

“A brilliant multidisciplinary analysis of gender and property in Latin America, and the ways in which rural women are actively engaged in the contests over land rights. . . .belongs in every university library .”—Heather Fowler-Salamini, Hispanic American Historical Review, 2/03

“With this comprehensive study of women’s land rights in Latin America, Carmen Diana Deere and Magdalena Léon continue their groundbreaking collaborative work, begun in the 1970s, on rural women in the region. . . . As might be expected, the gap between legal and actual sexual equality in land rights is substantial, due primarily to continuing male privilege in inheritance, in state programs of land distribution and titling, and in land markets. What is perhaps most surprising is the gains Latin American woman have made under neoliberalism, which certainly has not stressed gender equality.”—American Journal of Sociology

“A great many of the world’s women are rural. This is an important book that shows the problems they face.”—book jacket

“”Meticulously documented. . . . an invaluable resource for feminist researchers, activists, and policymakers alike.”—Latin American Research Review, February 2005

Complete Description Reviews
Pitt Latin American Series Table of Contents
Latin America/Politics Read a selection from this book

Won 2003 LASA Bryce Wood Book Award Won 2002 Latino Literary Award, Best History Book Won 2002 Best Book Prize of NECLAS, the New England Council on Latin American Studies The expansion of married women’s property rights was a main achievement of the first wave of feminism in Latin America. As Carmen Diana Deeere and Magdalena Leon reveal, however, the disjuncture between rights and actual ownership remains vast. This is particularly true in rural areas, where the distribution of land between men and women is highly unequal. In their pioneering, twelve-country comparative study, the authors argue that property ownership is directly related to women’s bargaining power within the household and community, point out changes resulting from recent gender-progressive legislation, and identify additional areas for future reform, including inheritance rights of wives.


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