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Salud mental

versão impressa ISSN 0185-3325

Resumo

SOSENSKI, Susana  e  SOSENSKI, Gregorio. In defense of children and women: a life approach to a psychiatrist Mathilde Rodriguez Cabo. Salud Ment [online]. 2010, vol.33, n.1, pp.1-10. ISSN 0185-3325.

Mathilde Rodríguez Cabo was the first female psychiatrist in Mexico. She was a prominent feminist leader who participated in the movement for childhood protection. She was also part of the struggle for political, social, and human rights of women. However, her outstanding career has remained forgotten and unknown to the public for a long time. This article seeks to bring to light her biography by rebuilding two important aspects of her life: her performance in the field of child psychiatry in post-revolutionary Mexico, and her fierce struggle as an activist defending Mexican women's rights. Mathilde Rodríguez was born in Las Palmas, San Luis Potosí, in 1902. While the country was convulsed by the revolutionary war, she joined the Colegio Alemán in Mexico City at the age of fourteen. An outstanding student, she finished her high school studies and learned German, which became useful for traveling and studying in Germany. Later she also translated in to Spanish important works from German psychiatry, such as Carl Gustav Jung's Symbolik des Geiste, and the Correspondence, between Sigmund Freud and Oskar Pfister. In 1922, Rodríguez began studing medicine at the Universidad Nacional de México. In 1929, she received a scholarship from the Alexander von Humboldt Society, given to young doctors to study a specialty in psychiatry and neurology at Cursos Internacionales de Perfeccionamiento Médico, offered annually by the University of Berlin. Thus, doctor Rodríguez became part of the small and selected group of Mexicans who got a university degree and a specialty. While still in Germany after finishing her curses, the Mexican government commissioned Rodríguez to travel to the Soviet Union to do research and learn the methods to protect children in that country. The permanence of Mathilde in Stalinist SSRU allowed her to observe directly the Russian social organization, and to get involved in socialist and progressive ideas. In 1932, the Children's Pavilion was created at the General Mental Hospital of La Castañeda, which responded to the general concern on childhood that characterized the Mexican twentieth century. Also, this was considered as a way to revalue and reconstruct the credibility of the institution. In October of the same year, the director of the Mental Hospital named Rodríguez Cabo director of the Children Psychiatric Pavilion. The early work of doctor Mathilde was to plan the organization of the place in order to enhance services and to obtain economical funds for its management. She removed unnecessary personnel and regulated the operation of the annexed school by including life conditions of students and general rules that should be followed in the institution. In addition, she developed a curriculum to include courses on special teaching and general culture, she proposed a class schedule with teaching procedures and evaluation systems, and elaborated a spending budget, which included food and attention of children, as well as the implementation of workshops. During her term as director of the Children's Pavilion, Mathilde Rodríguez intensified the work with mentally ill patients at the mental hospital, seeking a social rehabilitation and considering specific clinical circumstances in each particular case. Also, young patients had to be trained for social life as responsible individuals showing respect, submission, and capability to work. Psychiatrist Rodríguez Cabo not only was outstanding in the field of child psychiatry. Her activities for the struggle for women's rights made her one of the most politically committed Mexican doctors, with a high level of social activism. The government of General Lázaro Cárdenas had given a powerful impulse to the mobilization, organization, and consolidation of feminist struggles. In 1935, women who fought in the ruling Partido Nacional Revolucionario (the current PRI) and the Partido Comunista Mexicano were in charge of organizing a congress, established a united front for the rights of women. Mathilde Rodríguez Cabo participated in this congress, as in many others. In relation to women's civil rights, her criticism focused on the law, which did not sufficiently protect single mothers or natural children. She claimed it was necessary to regulate and structure and regulate the investigation over paternity to compel parents to cooperate with the mothers in raising their children, especially among the proletarian class, in which marriage or permanent unions were exceptional and children were very often the result of casual sex. Another issue Mathilde was concerned with was abortion. Between 1920 and 1940 several doctors discussed the pros and cons of the legalizing abortion in the context of eugenic ideas. Until then, criminal justice described abortion as infanticide. Mathilde Rodríguez Cabo shared the eugenic thought in Mexico, which gave women a role as the reproductive, and protector agent of the genetic heritage, and which recommended abortion and birth control for mentally weak, insane or epileptic women. Abortion was proposed as a measure to assist in the improvement of race. Rodríguez Cabo strongly defended that abortion had to be removed from the catalog of crimes, and thus she established the antecedents of the struggle for the legalization of abortion in Mexico. Furthermore, being the first female psychiatrist in Mexico, doctor Mathilde Rodríguez Cabo had a deep awareness of the importance of women in professional, social, and political life of the country. She was related to great figures in medicine, law, politics, and literature of her time. Mathilde was aware of maternity and health problems of both Mexican mothers and children, as well as of social problems related to social rehabilitation centers. She was also a figure who supported child psychiatry as a profession and she helped to develop it in our country. She argued that it was possible to rehabilitate abnormal or mentally ill children by making them useful to society, helping them to reintegrate into social life as early as possible. Feeding, working, music, and gymnastics became the most important therapeutic activities for Rodríguez Cabo. However, she was convinced that a substantial part of children's rehabilitation depended on a close and loving treatment, as well as psycho-physiological studies to determine appropriate diagnosis of illness and its treatment. Although she acknowledged that the causes of children's mental and school retardation could result from genetics or inheritance, she argued that the economic situation of their families contributed to these problems as well. Such thought was contrary to the biological and hereditary deterministic ideas, which were predominant during the post-revolution. Mathilde spread the word of Mexico at each of the international conferences she attended, especially in relation to women and children, the two major groups to whom she devoted her life. From the public institutions where she worked, she became actively involved in the development of law projects, and she fought permanently for a more just and equal society to face inequality and social injustice. Finally, she sought to provide men and women with the same rights, in spite of the fact that the Mexican Revolution had not yet reached society.

Palavras-chave : Psychiatry; childhood; feminism; women's rights; Mathilde Rodríguez Cabo.

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