Isabel Andreu was a suffragist, politician, civic leader and educator. She participated in and led various feminist organizations and was a co-founder of the Association of Women Graduates of the University of Puerto Rico. As a candidate for the Liberal Party, she was also one of the first women to run for the Senate.
Isabel Andreu y Blanco was born in Fajardo on November 15, 1897. Her father was Cristóbal Andreu Comendador, originally from Majorca, who later became mayor of Fajardo, and her mother was Blanca Irene Blanco Guzmán, a Puerto Rican. She attended elementary school in her home town. In 1903, she won a scholarship granted by the Legislative Assembly to study at the Normal School. The scholarship was renewed in 1905. Two years later, she was part of the first graduating class of teachers from that institution. The same year, she was named a teacher at the Model School affiliated with the university.
She returned to her home town in 1908, where she continued to work as a teacher. Later, she continued her studies to meet the new requirements for academic preparation that were established by the Department of Education to professionalize and classify the profession. Andreu earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Puerto Rico in 1935. She later studied at Columbia University in New York City, where she graduated with a Master in Arts with a specialization in adult education.
Isabel Andreu de Aguilar dedicated her life to public service and the struggle for equal rights for women in society. After the Carnegie Library was created in 1917, she was named to the institution’s board of directors by the governor Arthur Yager and was confirmed by the Senate.
That same year, the Puerto Rican League of Women was founded under the leadership of Ana Roqué de Duprey and Isabel Andreu de Aguilar became a vice president, along with Amparo Fernández Náter. The purpose of the organization was to lobby for women’s suffrage on the island. One of the League’s first actions was to present an official document to the Senate and the House of Representatives requesting for Puerto Rican women the right to vote. In 1921, the League of Women changed its name to the Suffragist Social League and included the right by women to hold political office among its objectives.
The Suffragist Social League took a position in favor of universal suffrage. Isabel Andreu, Ana Roque de Duprey and other feminist leaders, however, favored restricted suffrage. In other words, they wanted to limit voting to women age twenty-one or older who could read and write. Because of these and other differences, she left the League in 1924.
In 1925, the most conservative women formed an organization called the Puerto Rican Association of Women Suffragists, of which Isabel Andreu was the second president, following Ana Roque. In 1929, a law was approved giving women age twenty-one or older who could read and write the right to vote, which was precisely the kind of restricted suffrage favored by the Association. At that time, the organization changed its name to the Island Association of Women Voters, and Andreu served as president until 1932.
Among other organizations, Isabel Andreu was also a member of the University of Puerto Rico Board of Trustees after the university was established in 1925. In 1936, along with other professional women, she founded the Association of Women Graduates of the University of Puerto Rico, an organization dedicated to promoting the professional, academic and cultural development of its members.
She was a member of the Puerto Rican Liberal Party, which advocated total independence for Puerto Rico. As a member of the party, she ran for the Senate in 1932, joining the first group of women to aspire to elected political office.
Isabel Andreu de Aguilar died on April 7, 1948.
Andreu de Aguilar, Isabel. “Reseña histórica del movimiento sufragista de Puerto Rico”. Revista de la Asociación de Graduadas de la Universidad de Puerto Rico 4.1 (1941): 32-39. Impreso.
Club Cívico Fajardeño. Datos biográficos de la distinguida dama puertorriqueña, doña Isabel Andreu de Aguilar, nacida en Fajardo el día 15 de noviembre de mil ochocientos ochena y siete. Fajardo, P. R.: s. n., . Impreso.
Isabel Andreu de Aguilar. San Juan, P. R.: Casa Baldrich, s.f. Impreso.
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