Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)


International Relations


Claire McKinney

Committee Members

Silvia Tandeciarz

Caitlin Brown


In 1977, the second year of Argentina’s last dictatorship, the Madres de Plaza de Mayo donned white headscarves (pañuelos) and began weekly marches around the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires to bring attention to the disappearance of their children. By taking up a public defense of motherhood, they transferred a private role into a public, political act, established themselves as motherist activists, and effectively criticized the dictatorship. Today the women continue to organize, but their agenda has shifted from "apolitical" motherism to a radical anti-neoliberal, anti-imperialist critique. What caused this shift in the Madres' message? Although the literature has addressed how the Madres evolved, charting their changing claims and tactics over time, the question of why they were successful in shifting their claims to such radical political-economic critiques, given their collective identity as mothers, has yet to be adequately addressed. Using archival primary and secondary sources from Argentina in 1973 to the present, I show how the Madres developed an intergenerational form of popular motherist activism: first, I offer to the social movement literature the innovative theory of master frame hybridization, and argue that the Madres invented a popular motherist framing that resonated with their audience; second, they justified and gave meaning to their evolving activism via an intergenerational sense of emotion, and specifically, a feeling of popular motherist anger; and finally, that this shift was catalyzed by the experience and disposition of one leader, Hebe de Bonafini.

On-Campus Access Only