Nobel Women

gabriela mistral
Library of Congress

Gabriela Mistral, 1945 Winner of Nobel Prize in Literature

April 07, 2010
by findingDulcinea Staff
Gabriela Mistral was the pen name of Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga, the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. The poet and educator received the prize in 1945.

Born in 1889 in Vicuna, Chile, Mistral began working as a teacher’s aide in her teenage years in order to help support her mother. Her father had abandoned the family when she was just three years old. In 1906, she met Romeo Ureta, and fell in love. Tragically, he took his own life only three years later.

These hardships would inspire her poetry. “Death Sonnets,” her first collection, helped to establish her as a poet. But it wasn’t until “Despair,” published in 1922, that her reputation as a poet was solidified. This was followed by “Tenderness,” a collection that evoked a childhood theme, and “Tala,” marked by the same theme along with maternity, according to the Nobel Foundation.

 In 1922, Mistral left Chile and did not return. She worked in education reform in Mexico and later as the Chilean consul to Spain, Italy, the United States, Portugal, Mexico and Brazil, The New York Times reports.

Mistral died in Long Island in 1957. Her entire poetry collection was published the following year. Her epitaph reads, “What the soul is to the body, so is the artist to his people.”

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