Born: 7 May 1919
Died: 26 July 1952
Eva María Duarte de Perón, commonly known as Eva or Evita, left school when she was 16 to pursue her dream of a career as a stage, radio, and film actress in Buenos Aires. She found a job on one of the radio stations and remained there until she met Juan Perón, the Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare, who had ambitions to be president, and was working with the Argentine workers to support this bid.
Evita began a relationship with Perón and helped him win popular support. His popularity led to his arrest, but Evita helped to organise a mass demonstration that led to his release. Perón stood in the presidential elections in 1946 and Evita was an active campaigner by his side, an unprecedented occurrence in Argentine politics. Perón was duly elected and Evita continued to play an active role. She kept her promise to the working classes and took such an interest that, in everything but name, she became the Secretary of Labor, supporting higher wages and greater social welfare benefits.
Evita also had a high public profile, visiting factories and hospitals, and holding meetings with those whom she was trying to help. Evita also took an active interest in health policy, supervising programmes to eradicate some of the most crippling diseases including tuberculosis, malaria and leprosy. In 1947, she set up the 'Maria Eva Duarte De Perón Welfare Foundation', which distributed money, food and medicines to those most in need. Evita angered the elite with her active campaign for female suffrage. Suffrage for women was enacted in 1947, largely due to the energy and soul that Evita poured into the campaign.
She died from cancer on 26 July 1952. Public grief was intense, and unprecedented in Argentina. Her precise role in Argentinian politics is still hotly debated, and her supporters and enemies battle it out to write her legacy.