Clara González Carrillo was born in Remedios, Republic of Panama. Her father was a Spanish immigrant, and her mother was of indigenous descent. When she was two years old, her father refused to supply weapons to the dominant political group of their region, and the family fled the country to Costa Rica, staying there for four years.
She attended the Santa Familia School, which trained the girls in domestic life, learning sewing and home economics. Afterward, she won a scholarship to the Escuela Normal de Institutoras, earning a teaching degree. While working as a teacher, she studied law at the Escuela Nacional de Derecho (National School of Law). In 1924, at 24, she became the first woman in Panama to earn a Bachelor of Law and began her law career when the law changed in 1925, allowing women to practice law.
In 1923, while still in school, she co-founded the Partido Nacional Feminista (National Women’s Party), promoting women’s rights and suffrage. The party established the Escuela de Cultura Femenina (School of Feminine Culture) to provide professional, educational, and social development for women. At the time, González became involved with socialist and anti-imperialist groups, and in addition to her civil rights and suffrage activities, she became an advocate for social and economic justice.
In 1927, at 29, she won a scholarship to New York University, where she earned a doctorate in law. During her time in the US, the Inter-American Commission of Women (IACW) was established, and she became Panama’s representative. She worked on legal issues and women’s rights in the Pan-American Union office and led their research on the status of women’s rights in different nations. Over time, González felt that the organization withheld funding from the Latin American activists and denied them leadership posts, and in 1930, she left the IACW and returned to Panama.
On her return, she taught economics, political science, and sociology at the National Institute, and later criminology, family law, and juvenile justice at the newly-founded University of Panama. She continued to advocate for women’s rights and rejoined the National Women’s Party. In 1938, she broadened her activities and became a member of the Mexican organization Frente Único Pro-Derechos de la Mujer (the Sole Front for Women’s Rights).
In 1943, at 45, González married Charles A. Behringer, an American civil engineer. The following year, she founded the Unión Nacional de Mujeres (National Women’s Union); when women were granted the right to vote in 1945, she ran for national deputy of the Constitutional Assembly and the vice-presidency of Panama but lost in both elections. She continued her social activities, as an organizer of the Popular Centers of Culture for Adults, as an official in the International Federation of Women Lawyers, and worked with UNESCO on child welfare issues.
In 1951, 53 years old González became the first woman in Panama to be appointed as a juvenile court judge. In this role, she assisted in drafting the Juvenile Code, which established the treatment of juvenile delinquents; she also founded the Chapala Juvenile Reformatory. In 1964, she retired and moved with her husband to West Covina, California. She returned to Panama when her husband died two years later. In 1972, she went through a hip surgery that caused her leg amputation and limited mobility. She died at the age of 91.
This post is also available in:
- She did not have children.
- When she was six years old, a family friend raped her. This horrible event led her to pursue a law career and promote women's rights.
- In her graduate thesis, La Mujer ante el Derecho Panameño (Woman in Panamanian Law), she reviewed some of her early views on feminism.
- A statue of her stands on Octavio Méndez Pereira campus at Panama University.
- The National Union of Lawyers' annual award given to legal professionals who excelled in fighting for women's or human rights is named in her honor.
Sorry, no records were found. Please adjust your search criteria and try again.
Sorry, unable to load the Maps API.
This post is also available in: Español