I have been pondering the life and character of Eva Peron, the reason?
It’s time for a major re organisation of my 1940s outfits and as I usually try to find some theme to give coherence to the outfits that form each of the eras we cover I have decided to mould my 40s wardrobe around the movie Evita .I don’t normally use costume movies exclusively for inspiration but as Evita contains an attention to visual historical detail that is impressive and record-breaking 85 costume changes for Madonna it seemed a useful source.
The two other major points in its favour were that the costumes were designed to be eye-catching as well as accurate and as Madonna was pregnant throughout filming the outfits are more forgiving of less than flat tummy than many 40s styles .Also one last thing the movie has been a favourite for a long time esp as ,,, the costumers sourced Madonna’s buttons locally ,,”Madonna gets her buttons from Dutton’s “was a slogan that ran for many months in our local sewing supplies shop .(sadly it is now closed but the slogan has always stuck in my memory ,,much like the equally witty “now is the winter of our discount tents ,”,seen in our local camping shop widow during its sale).
The research for the costumes has been helped by the wide range of media available, Madonna posed for a vogue and Vanity fair shoots as part of the movies PR.
and as part of her preparation wore Eva style outfits for some time prior to filming .
There was also a feature of the making of the movie and lavishly illustrated book.
The initial work involved a fair number of watches through sessions of the musical, browsing the book made to compliment the movie as well as Madonna’s interesting Diary entries for that time detailing her own research and interviews with eye witnesses to Eva Peron’s life. I have also spent a great deal of YouTube time looking at archive footage of Eva. Including this rare interview
It has made me consider the life of Evita, an extraordinary woman who seems to have been full of contradictions and who both her lifetime and present day is loved and hated in almost equal proportions. It also made me ponder the way that she has been treated by history and if that judgment would have been different had she been male .
Eva was the poor illegitimate daughter of an unmarried mother who grew up a small isolated rural town yet by the end of her life she internationally famous ,something of a fashion icon ,loved by millions ,she has not only managed to become first lady of Argentina ,she had met presidents ,she had met privately with the pope, In a country infamous as a haven for escaping Nazis she was thanked personally by the Israeli President Golda Meyer for the aid she provided to Israel.
She had sent aid to the USA,
and in a male dominated society she had gained the vote for women (see footnotes) and changed countless thousands lives by creating a organisation providing new housing, hospitals ,education ,health care ,and household items for the poor . She is often featured on stamps
An even has an Argentine coin named after her
When she died her funeral was covered by international press, her coffin followed by the president, by representatives from all classes of society including the upper-classes and the heads of all the armed forces who had so despised her in life
There was even a fly past by the air force.Many millions lined the streets for her funeral and queued sometimes for days to file past and pay their last respects while she lay in state, her perfectly persevered body laying a silver framed crystal topped coffin.
Yes she has also gained a reputation for vindictiveness and ruthlessness either fairly or unfairly. Certainly she seems to have been forthright in expressing her views without deference to rank or dignity (see footnote 8) and the Perons regime was intolerant of opposition but Eva who was working a minimum of 16 hours a day during the height of her power seems unlikely to have had as much time free to pursue as many personal vendettas as is sometimes suggested.
Eva Duarte was actually born Maria Eva Ibarguren and was the illegitimate daughter of an unmarried woman and a married man , Juan Duarte a wealthy rancher .It was not uncommon in Argentina at that time for a wealthy man to have both an official and an unofficial family but Duarte seems to have completely abandoned his second family ,a statement that the children were his was the only input Eva’s father made to his children’s well-being ,this statement allowed his children to use his name and Eva accordingly changed her name to Marie Eva Duarte when circumstances and her later fame allowed it. To be poor and illegitimate was to be most definitely on the bottom rung of the Argentine social hierarchy and to live in a small town in the middle of nowhere was to be about as far away from Argentine culture and politics as was possible ,it a time before televisions were at all common and were radios were still a luxury Los Toldos were Eva was born was both remote and small and even Junin the small town in which Eva grew up was culturally as well as geographically isolated though it did own a cinema and theatre (footnote 7) .These factors however make Eva’s subsequent rise to first lady especially impressive.
Eva’s early years are not particularly well documented but she does seem to have made the decision as a teenager of around 15 to leave Junin and head for Buenos Aires,, for an uneducated and unskilled poor and illegitimate teenage girl in a world that was dominated by men at every level and in country undergoing a major economic depression this showed an impressive degree of courage and self-reliance. (See footnote 6)
The Movie Evita and some biographers claim Eva travelled to Buenos Aires with Augustine Magaldi, however there is no record that Magildi toured or played in or near Junin at this time and as he was married it seems to me unlikely Eva would have entrusted her fortunes in a manner that had caused so much poverty and misery for her mother. One of the defining moments of Eva’s life was being forbidden by her father’s official family to enter the church at her father’s funeral its seems to have fuelled her hatred of the upper classes and shaped her sense of social justice .Other biographers claim she moved to Buenos Aires with her mother who stayed for a while and settled her with friends of the family ,,,it seems to me the more likely scenerio.Though it is unlikely that Eva’s mother could have spent too long in Buenos Aires with Eva as her mother’s livelihood was in Junin it does seem not entirely out of character for the strong-minded mother Donna Juana and her daughter to have headed to the city to try to change the fortunes of at least one of the impoverished family, It also seems not impossible that a member of the extended family allowed Eva to stay at least temporarily with them, as long as Eva could provide some cash input to the household she would surely be welcome at a time when families in the city were struggling to make ends meet as the economic situation worsened .
What is known is that Eva quite rapidly succeeded to make her way into the theatrical world,
The image above is from 1939 and she is well known enough to be signing autographs,
a year after moving to Buenos Aires she travelled in a small theatre company, did some modelling (as seen in the swimsuit photo above) and slowly got bigger and better parts .She eventually landed stable and regular well paid work at a radio station and later more regular work at another Station radio Belgrano.
Eva’s early modelling work above and her early radio work below
the next years of Eva’s life are also somewhat hazy, The Musical and many biographers claim Eva “slept her way ” to the top ,To me it seems not unlikely that Eva had to make what may to the modern eye seem morally dubious choices (footnote) and there does seem to have been some gossip along these lines which Eva acknowledged and answered (see footnote one) .What may weigh against the suggestion is Eva’s experience of the poverty caused by being a mistress who ends up the mother of illegitimate children ,,this was a world before reliable contraception . It is clear the trauma of her illegitimacy affected her and when she later had the power she abolished the term on birth certificate (footnote 9)
What is know is that Eva had a very succesful radio career and featured in a regular series featuring the great women of history such as Elizabeth 1 ,this no doubt gave Eva a chance to explore the roles of women in power in past eras, some movie work followed.
What is clear for even a quick look at images of Eva from this time is that she was not an unknown when she met Peron but well known face and name
Eva also succeded in becoming financialy stable as can be seen in the photos of her in her apartment and far from being the stupid blond shes sometimes made out to be ,She shows a certain amount of financial acumen as by 1942 she co owned the radio station
El Undo which had previously employed her ,it was the biggest and most well-known of the Argentine stations .The man who co ran the station appears to have not particularly liked her giving something less than credibility to the idea of Eva sleeping her way into Radio success ,but he did find her hard-working and reliable so this tends to favour Eva’s own version of success based on hard work and the willingness to endure hard times for the sake of future success.She was now one of the highest paid radio actresses and co owner of her own radio station so was able to move into an exclusive neighbourhood of Buenos Aires and buy her own apartment.She was often out and about and became used to high society
While also branching into politics as one of the founders of the Argentine Radio Syndicate. She may have lived the life of a celebrity but it did not define who she was ,she seems to have considered it part of the job to dress up and socialize (see footnote 2) and while she obviously enjoyed having pretty clothes she seems to have preferred wearing informal clothing ,once she was first lady ,,on days off she would often wear “manly” casual shirts and trousers
and seems to have been something of a tom boy (see footnotes 5)
To sum up
When Eva Duarte met Peron she was not the pretty unknown dependent of a rich protector as suggested by the musical Evita or as is commonly believed a superficial social butterfly starlet who had slept her way to the top ,she was a young beautiful intelligent independently wealthy and famous.
,she seems to have had a good reputation and to have had no male in her life at the time (though its possible there has been some censoring of information from these early years).In addition she seems to have already had marked interest if not in politics then in social justice and “charity for the poor .Eva’s early life shows all the elements that mark her later years ,a driven personality ,self-reliance ,a willingness to work hard ,an inquiring mind , and a strong sense of social responsibility probably heightened by contact with wealthy or influential people who had no concept of poverty ,one of my favourite Eva quotes is “When the rich think about the poor, they have poor ideas.” and I suspect that was a view formed during this time. When Eva first meets Peron at a Charity event when she is not performing on stage or making speeches but carrying around a collecting can .
What makes Eva so incredibly different is her life once she does meet Peron ,there have been a number of actresses or models who have marrried into politics and even in the past decades such women have never made the impact of Eva,,Nancy Regan remained in the backgound during her husbands presidency as was expected and is still expected of First ladies and priministers wives,yet they move in a world where the equality of women is accepted ,there is no stigma attached to the circumstances of birth or a career in the arts or media.
Eva however is now better known than her husband ,,many more people know about Eva than about Juan Peron and without Eva its unlikely anyone outside of Argentina would have been very interested in Peron.Eva may not have made Peron well known or influential but she has kept him and his politcal views in the public eye even so many years after they are both dead
part two of this post is here and deals with Eva and Perons relationship and her first months as first lady
There will be additional posts on the Rainbown tour ,evas politcal work and Evas chairty work .
I have unfortuantly lost the footnote mumbers but here are the quotes of eva and her family and freinds which I used in this post
“A man of action is one who triumphs over the rest. A woman of action is one who triumphs for the rest
I demanded more rights for women because I know what women had to put up with.
Evas sister childhood memories
I need to return to my memory of your love for climbing trees and staying in them for hours and hours, nesting in them like a bird. I would keep you company and we would chat interminably. We used to stay in the trees so long that when evening came and our family began to look for us, the first thing they would do would be to go out to our favourite trees and look up. Yes, the two little fledglings were inevitably in a fork of one of the highest branches. I can see you swinging on the flexible branches of one of the willow trees; you seemed as light as a bough made of air.
Eva’s sister’s recollections
I belonged to the students’ Central Cultural and Art Commission. We edited a magazine and put on plays; each year we performed two or three comedies. Even though you weren’t in secondary school, you used to come to help us and act with us. You were so happy on stage! Your dream of being an actress, which had sprouted during the years of your childhood, became more concrete and more fervent.
You loved to read and recite poetry.
In Junín a music store had installed a loudspeaker in the street. Boys and girls gave speeches, sang, and recited. For the first time, through that loudspeaker, your voice reached out over several blocks in Junín. Years later your voice would cover the entire country and your words would reach the whole world.
In 1946 when the Catholic Church’s Cardinal Caggiano objected to Evita’s orders to abolish the term illegitimate on birth certificates, Evita stated simply,
“One of two choices: do as I say, or we write on the father’s documents: `Illegitimate father.’ ”
In her biography Eva Perón, Alicia Dujovne Ortiz wrote:
As a young actress, escaping from the crushing poverty of her childhood and her illegitimacy that branded her for her entire life, the young woman Eva Duarte was given an ultimatum by the company’s leading man: “Sleep with me or you’re fired!”
The company’s promoter recommended she give it to the sexual advances.
“When the actor’s wife appeared, she threw a fit.
“She threatened her husband, but she terrorized Eva.
“Just as the (song) says, the guilty are always women.”