Maria Eva Peron

Lived:May 7, 1919—July 26, 1952 (aged 33)
Career:First Lady of Argentina

María Eva Duarte de Perón was the wife of Argentine President Juan Perón and first lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. She is usually referred to as Eva or Evita.

Perón was born May 7, 1919, in the village of Los Toldos, Argentina, the youngest of five children. Her parents were not married, and her father abandoned the family when Perón was one year old, leaving them in poverty. Perón's legal and societal status as an illegitimate child followed her throughout her life. At age 15, she moved to Buenos Aires to pursue a career as an actress, eventually becoming co-owner of a radio company and one of the highest-paid radio actresses in the country. In 1943, she was one of the founders of the Argentine Radio Syndicate. She married Juan Perón, a colonel and government official, in 1945, and he was elected president of Argentina in 1946. Perón campaigned for her husband, delivering radio speeches and traveling throughout the country with him.

In 1947, Perón met with numerous European dignitaries and heads of state in what was termed the Rainbow Tour. At home, she used her position as first lady to speak on behalf of labor rights and advocate for women's suffrage in Argentina. She unofficially ran the Ministries of Labor and Health, founded the Eva Perón Foundation and founded the nation's first large-scale female political party, the Female Peronist Party. In 1951, she announced her intention to run for vice president, receiving strong support from the Peronist political base and low-income and working-class Argentines. However, health problems and political opposition from the military and upper-class Argentines caused her to withdraw her candidacy.

Perón died of cancer on July 26, 1952. Shortly before her death, she was given the title of "Spiritual Leader of the Nation" by the Argentine Congress. Upon her death, she was given a state funeral, typically reserved for heads of state. Her story was the subject of many articles, books, stage plays and television shows, and eventually a Broadway musical and a Hollywood film.