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09/11/2001 WE REMEMBER
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
Posted: Posted February 11th by Louis De Pointe du Lac
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I used to wonder why I hardly ever heard of any female philosophers throughout history. Then I hear about people like this and think OH YEA

Been recently interested in the life of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz who was a playwright, philosopher, mathematician, and composer during the Mexican colonial period. In her early life she was a child of privilege since her grandparents came from Spain making them part of the upper class, despite the bastard child of a spanish soldier. Early on in her life Sor Juana's intellect and thirst for knowledge became apparent. At around the age of 3 she had already taught herself to read and write in Latin, by 5 could do mathematical accounting, and by 8 composed her own poem on the Eucharist. By the age of 13 she was teaching Latin and had also learned the Aztec language of Nahautl. Unfortunately because she was a woman, higher education was forbidden. She asked her mother for permission to disguise herself as a man in order to enter university, but when this idea was shot down she decided to home school herself in secret.

Inevitably gaining some sensational fame she became a lady in waiting in the colonial Viceroy's court with his wife as her tutor. At some point the viceroy was interested in testing Sor Juana's intellect and invited poets, scholars, lawyers, and philosophers to ask her pop questions and challenge her to explain complicated subjects in science and literature. Answering each question with flying colors and explaining each subject in detail, she was able to astound everyone present at the meeting. This in turn caused Sor Juana's fame to increase further which attracted a great deal of suitors to her. However becoming a wife in mexico in those times meant basically giving up much of what she was passionate about. So instead she became a nun and joined a somewhat liberal convent of nuns known as the Heironymites, where she could continue her writing and studies without the pressure to marry.

While living the cloistered life she was visited by many scholars and other intellectuals including Don de Siguenza (one of the leading mathematicians and writers in New Mexico at the time). Additionally she accumulated a large and impressive library of books ranging in a wide variety of subjects. Unfortunately being an outspoken critic of woman oppression and male privilege at the time, it was't much longer until the church finally clamped down on her. At some point a bishop named Manuel Fernandez pretending to be a nun named Sor Filotea, published Sor Juana's analysis of an old sermon by a preacher named Father Antonio Vieira, in which she criticized the hierarchical structure of the Church. In an added letter at the end of the published work "Sor Filotea" added that although she agreed with Sor Juana's criticism it was not her place as a woman to write such things and that she should devote herself to prayer instead.

In response to this Sor Juana wrote a letter to Filotea where she argued for the right of women to receive an education and that mentioned that if more women were in teaching positions it could result in less dangerous situations for female students at the beck and call of male teachers. She also commented that God would not have given women intellect if he did not want them to use it. This unfortunately got her noticed by some of the Church higher ups like the Archbishop of Mexico, who condemned her for being wayward and for believing that being a nun who writes was equal to one who works for the community. Finally her continued notoriety among the conservative factions of the Church cornered her into giving up her library and her writing career in order to avoid official punishment.

Later in her life she dedicated herself to tending to the sick and when an outbreak of the bubonic plague struck in 1695, Sor Juana became one of its victims.

Today she is a celebrated figure in Mexico and credited as one of the first feminists of the New World.


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Posted February 11th by eldin raigmore
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