The Story of Jorgelina Lozada from Argentina

The Story of Jorgelina Lozada from Argentina

Religious Personalities of Buenos Aires: Jorgelina Lozada (1906 -1995) – The First Ordained Female in Latin America

By Blanca Staude de Martínez and Ester Iglesias de Lugo

Blanca Staude de Martínez and Ester Iglesias de Lugo: are both ordained ministers of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who graduated from the Seminary Facultad de Teología (ISEDET).  They are both retires but continue serving in ecumenical work within and outside of their own denomination.

To read the original article in Spanish and to see the photos click here: Jorgelina Lozada

Jorgelina Lozada.

Photo:Archive of the Disciples of Christ.

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– Jorgelina Lozada –

Jorgelina was born on the 18th of February, 1906 in Bragado, Buenos Aires province.  She was the daughter of Leopoldo José Lozada, an Argentine child of Basque immigrants, and Lydia Violet White, an Englishwoman.  Jorgelina had three brothers and a sister.  Her father’s political involvement in the Radical Civic Unión for which he suffered persecution along with the values and sense of responsibility in her mother doubtless produced in Jorgelina an awareness of social issues that resulted in a strong social commitment nourished by the essence of her evangelical Christian faith.  When the time came to make decisions regarding her education and future carreer, Jorgelina at 17 enrolled in the Model Institute for Christian Women’s Work to prepare for Christian service.  There she came under the influence, among others, of Zona Smith, an American missionary.  This was a time of change and of new initiatives having to do with outreach, of what the mission of the Church should be beyond the walls of the church buildings.  In 1922 the Disciples of Christ church had created the Model Institute for Christian Women’s Work in the Flores district for the religious formation of women.  Jorgelina was a member of the first graduating class in 1925.  Not satisfied with this level of education alone, she went on to study social work at the Social Museum of Argentina, journalism in the School of Journalism, and two years with the Red Cross.

Gifted with a strong personality and a clear vision of the place of service that she wanted to occupy as a Christian  woman, she took upon herself a strong commitment to achieve recognition of women in both the social and religious spheres and in her own milieu.  “This was a new adventure in my life.  The carreer that I had chosen opened many avenues of service and it has challenged me to a greater effort, a growing concern for the movement toward unity and fellowship that characterize the church I joined.”

The Lozada family moved to the capital, to the Belgrano district, having been invited to the church by a promoter who distributed Biblical literature door to door.  She began attending Sunday School and the other activities of congregational life along with her family.   At age 14 on Easter Sunday along with her sister, Jorgelina made her confession of faith and joined the Disciples of Christ Church.  

The first class of the Model Institute for Christian Women’s Workers, Jorgelina is in the center dressed in white (1925).  Photo from the Archive of the Disciples of Christ.


We should remember that in the decade of the 1920’s and even afterwards, the dream [of women’s equality in the church] was a utopian one.  It is fair to recognize that even in the midst of the congregations of the Disciples of Christ Church to which she belonged there was a measure of skepticism, not to say outright rejection, motivated more by the sociocultural reality of the moment than by a sober evaluation and comprehension of the meaning and challenge presented by that dream.

                At this time she joined the Christian Feminine Association, serving as secretary of the organization for several years and later as a member of the Steering Committee where she was able to develop educational projects over several decades. 

                In 1930 she was ordained as a minister of the Church, the first Latin American woman to be ordained.  Her appointment to the Villa Mitre congregation in 1938 was a faith adventure, as much for the Disciples of Christ Church that was willing to break with antiquated and erroneous concepts of who could carry out the ministry of the Church, as for herself in accepting such a responsibility, aware that she would not be well-received in some circles, including in the midst of other churches.  That same year she was sent as a delegate of her own church, together with other protestant leaders, to participate in the Missionary Congress held in Madras, India, a conference that commemorated 25 year of the Ecumenical Movement.  At her return, she wrote the book Traditionalist India where she commented on her impressions of that society that is little known in our own culture. 

Her pastorate in the Villa Mitre church until 1956 was her “tether to reality”, with the ups and downs that are normal in such work, but also with a clear concept of the profound significance of the mission of the Church.  In 1938 the church consisted of a small group of the faithful that gathered in a rented room.  Thanks to her intense work among youth and adults, in 1940 the congregation was able to dedicate its own sanctuary with buildings for Christian Education, a parsonage, and a home for interns.  Soon a Children’s Recreation Program was begun, serving preschoolers, a ministry that was not common in those days.

Pasto at the Villa Mitre church.  Photo from the Archive of the Disciples of Christ church (1938).

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In 1944 she was sent to study at Scarritt College and Vanderbilt University in Nashville at the same time as she collaborated with the United Church of Christ in the United States.  She taught Christian Education for a year at the Seminary in Barcelona, Spain, where she had previously carried out postgraduate studies.  She participated in several events in Canada and Switzerland and delivered the Commencement Address at the Theological Seminary of Puerto Rico,  where she was also invited to speak to events of Roman Catholic women.  Jorgelina “was Jorgelina”, however, and since she was convinced that her concern regarding the place that women could and should occupy in society was not merely personal but rather a challenge arising from the calling extended to women by Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection, she sought to continue to demonstrate a strong social and religious commitment as a pastor throughout her whole life. 

We can’t talk about Jorgelina’s carreer without mentioning her dedicated service to the Argentine League of Evangelical Women (LAME), and to its magazine, Guia del Hogar (Guide to the Home).  She was the Director of this organization for years.   More than serving as chairperson, she opposed all conventionality, rendering distinguished service in relevant projects and causing the League to break more than once with its own program structures to accept its responsibility to offer a Christian witness with a social dimension.  Among the many challenges that she faced was the promotion and support of Women’s volunteer work in different spheres (1940).  A few years later she founded a medical clinic for pediatrics, women’s care, and birth control—services that were offered at no cost to the women of the district with the help of volunteer physicians: Drs. Julio Savon Salaberry and Antonio E. Pini.  Only those who never knew Jorgelina could think that the broad tasks and challenges she faced in her pastorate were sufficient channels for her concerns. 

As a delegate of her Church she was a founding member of the Argentine Federation of Evangelical Churches (FAIE) and in 1939 she was the first woman to serve on the organization’s Steering Committee, where she served for about 30 years, notably as Secretary for Christian Education and as Secretary for Women’s work.  Finally, she also served as Executive Secretary of the institution.  It was here that she initiated relationships with other Churches and cooperation in pastoral work with women’s groups and service organizations within Argentina and abroad.

– Jorgelina Lozada –

With the children at Villa Mitre.  Photo from the Archive of the Disciples of Christ (1940).

This is how she created along with other women the organization known as INCISO, (Civi and Social Interchange), a coordination group that brings together Non Government Organizations (NGO’s) to carry out community service work.  INCISO, along with other social service organizations, became a part of CONDECOR (Coordination of Coordinators), an organization that she also helped to form and in which she labored diligently.  AT LAME she proposed and worked for the creation of the Home for Evangelical Women, an appropriate facility to provide dignified and affordable housing for women from the interior who had to travel to the capital for different reasons and who could not avail themselves of other lodgings.  This project occupied a special place in her heart, and she dedicated to it not only her time and energy but also a financial legacy at the time of her death.  An operation for breast cancer did not stop her, as she continued teaching, writing, and accompanying  persons and institutions: Ward College, the Theological Faculty (ISEDET), the Women’s Home, the volunteer program of the Ministry of Social Welfared, CAESPO (a public health organization), CONDECOR, and other labors, including a willingness to preach in any church where she was invited.  She used to say,  “I believe in the freshness of the message as it faces the reality of daily life.  The word received from the pulpit communicates to the people who always live with hope.  That hope places me under obligation before the Lord and my neighbors.”  

Her place in the midst of her Church and in other institutions gave her the opportunity to attend many ecumenical events.  She participated in the Convention of the World Association of Sunday Schools in Rio de Janeiro Brasil in 1932; at the Assembly of the World Missionary Council in Madras, India in 1938; at the World Christian Education Convention in Toronto, Canada, in 1950; at the meeting of the Commission on the Life and Work of Women of the World Council of Churches in Geneva in 1950; at the meeting of the Steering Committee of the World Missionary Council in Willingen, Germany, in 1952; at the meeting of the World Council of Churches in Evanston in 1953; at the World Conference on Christian Education in Nishinomiya, Japan, in 1958; in the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Edinburg, Scotland, in 1960; and a great many other ecumenical, social, and civic events both inside and outside Argentina. 

In addition to the previously mentioned Traditionalist India, that was published in 1940 along with a work entitled Social Service , Jorgelina also published the following works:  Christian Women’s Fellowship, a Creative Activity  (1960—the fruit of her work with women’s groups of the Disciples of Christ and other denominations);  Strings in the Wind (1972); and many articles in different magazines, all part of the legacy with which Jorgelina enriched us. 

Participating in an event in Bolivia. Photo from the Archive of the Disciples of Christ Church

She founded two libraries, one in Villa Rosa of Bahía Blanca province while she collaborated with the congregation of the Methodist Church there, and another in Buenos Aires.  In an article entitled, “Life is a March”, she says: 

“Life is an unending march.  Sometimes I march slowly, at other times quickly, and sometimes in spurts, but one must march on.  Stopping in the way would be a symptom of cowardice, of fear, of the beginning of death.  We must always go on.  The effort of marching will make you a heroe. ¡March on . . .!  There will be twists, the pathway will have its fowers, its thorns, and its weeds.  Afar off you will find the sanctuary of rest if you continue your march upwards.  But if you stop at some point, may it not be to look back but to recover your breath, to gain new strength, to offer a word of kindness, to carry out one more labor of love.  Don’t stop to contemplate where you have come from or to enumerate the obstacles you have overcome.  Don’t stop to spend the night with your fears or doubts.  Don’t stop either because you can’t see the path of the future . . . don’t stop to give way to useless thoughts.  Keep walking in the conviction of victory, with a song in your soul, with the light in your eyes, and a glow on your cheeks.  Keep walking in serenity and tranquility, trusting that other lives will bless the footsteps of your passing, because you walked through life doing good and not doing it alone.  Those who uphold and express the ideals of Christian love never march alone because Christ is with them.  As you continue walking, the footsteps of your passing will transform the arid path into a beautiful valley because of the seeds you left as you walked.  March on always with a note of optimism and trust . . . but continue on.”

In 1991 she received the “Valued Woman” prize of the United Church of Christ in the USA, and in 1993 the Biographical Center in Cambridge, England, distinguished her with the title of “International Woman of the Year.”  She died in Buenos Aires on the 25th of February, 1995, and her remains are buried at Jardín de los Recuerdos (Garden of Memories) of the British Cemetery in Chacarita district in Buenos Aires.

Jorgelina participates in an ecumenical event.  Photo from the Archive of the Disciples of Christ Church.