Google is today celebrating the birthday of the trailblazing Matilde Hidalgo de Procel, who was born on this day in 1889.
A women’s rights pioneer, the inspirational Procel was an Ecuadorian physician, poet, and activist who became the first woman to vote in Latin America.
She smashed through glass ceilings her entire life, fighting for recognition of women’s rights and is now widely considered one of the most important women in the country’s history.
Here’s all you need to know about her.
Who was Matilde Hidalgo de Procel?
Born on this day in 1889 in the city of Loja, Ecuador as the youngest of six children, Procel was raised by her mother, a widowed seamstress.
As she grew up she spoke of her desire to continue her education past the sixth grade, and her older brother Antiono requested that his sister be allowed to attend high school at Colegio Bernardo Valdivieso, which was granted.
But Procel faced prejudice in the community for doing so – she was ostracised by peers and forced to listen to mass two steps outside the church’s entrance.
Yet despite this, Procel became the first woman to graduate from a high school in Ecuador in 1913 – which she did with honours.
She continued her education at the Universidad del Azuay, now known as University of Cuenca, to study medicine and then at the Central University, becoming the first female doctor in Ecuadorian history in 1921.
In 1924, she announced her decision to vote in the next presidential election, setting the stage for another first when she signed the register of voters that year.
When questioned by the State Council over her right to vote, she pointed out that Ecuador’s Constitution makes no mention of gender as a requirement for voting – only citizenship, age, and literacy.
After a ministerial consultation, her argument was later affirmed by a unanimous vote and on June 9 of that year she became the first woman in Latin America to exercise her constitutional right to vote in a national election.
It was a decision that would ensure she would go down in history, after she inspired her country to become the first Latin American state to grant suffrage to all women.
Procel eventually ran for public office, and she became the country’s first female elected official in 1941. She was awarded the Medal of Merit and the Medal of Public Health by the government, and her hometown established a museum in her honour.