Uruguay is known as one of the most progressive countries in Latin America and the women of Uruguay (Uruguayas) have equal rights and opportunities. The traditional patriarchal family system began to change in Uruguay in the early twentieth century when various laws were implemented that allowed women to file for divorce without a specific cause, maintain bank accounts separate from their husbands, and were provided the same educational opportunities as men. In 1938 women were given the right to vote.
It should be noted that these new freedoms were given to women with the intent of “protecting” them and were not necessarily considered their inalienable rights. However, this should not come as a surprise. This is a popular trend in human rights movements. The same thing occurred in the women’s movement in the United States. It seems that reforms are more easily accepted if the subjugated group is considered too weak to protect and fight for themselves, reaffirming the dominant group as superior, if not still legally, at least socially.
All these changes led to more women entering the work force. It became expected that a woman would have a career instead of the exception. It was easier for middle-class women to work because middle-class Uruguayans have domestic servants, not just the wealthy as in the U.S.
It should be noted that in the rural areas of Uruguay the familial system is more traditional with extended families headed by a patriarch instead of the nuclear families more common in Montevideo. Women in rural areas tend to migrate to Montevideo in order to work, often as domestic servants.
The liberation and movement of women from the house to the professional world has changed family life. More houses are nuclear families and the number of children per household has decreased because of the rising middle class that wished to provide greater resources to the children they had. However, this is only true in Montevideo. The rural areas still have a higher birthrate and there is more disruption of the family due to Uruguayas migration to the city.