Shelved Dolls: Eva “Evita” Peron – OH MY GOD THEY CUT OUT HER BRAIN

One form of escape from her often unhappy reality was the movies. Eva grew up idolizing Norma Shearer – a very funny lady, who often played saintly society matrons and queens. (Fun side note: Bette Davis once said that she often played bitches in movies because she was very pleasant in real life, while the opposite was true of Norma Shearer.) Here’s a picture of Norma from one of her most famous roles as Marie Antoinette:

Did Eva draw any conclusions about how a woman in power looks and behaves from this picture? I’ll leave you to make up your own mind. But I will say that, later in life, Eva looked great in Dior.

As a child, though, she just loved acting. In her autobiography, The Reason For My Life, Eva wrote:

“Even as a little girl I wanted to recite. It was as though I wished to say something to others, something important which I felt in my deepest heart.”

Eva’s first performance was in a school play called Students Arise, which biographer John Barnes described as “an emotional, patriotic, flag-waving melodrama” in Evita, First Lady: A Biography of Eva Perón. She didn’t even have a very big role in this school play; it was a really minor flag-waving role. Usually it’s the person who plays Dorothy in the high school production of The Wizard of Oz who decides she is going to be a famous actress, not the person who plays Munchkin #2.

But Eva had an exceptional amount of self-confidence. In The Reason For My Life, she wrote:

“Like the birds, I’ve always preferred the freedom of the forest. I haven’t even been able to tolerate that minimum loss of freedom which comes from living with your parents or in your  hometown.  Very early in life I left my home and my hometown and since then I’ve always lived free. I’ve wanted to be on my own and I have been on my own.”

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    • BeccaTheCyborg

      I really didn’t know a lot about her besides the um, fascism part. The lobotomy! Holy shit.

      Seeing as you don’t seem to mind controversy, any chances of there ever being a Shelved Dolls on the Mitford Sisters?

      • BeccaTheCyborg

        Okay, maybe just the super-famous Mitford sisters? I’m mostly thinking when Jessica and Diana divided their shared bedroom wacky sitcom-style and put up respectively posters of Marx and Hitler. Because seriously.

    • Mallory Archer

      This article was fascinating! Growing up with a gay father who made me watch Evita all the time and made me listen to the soundtrack, I had no idea that Evita was actually a real person who had issues, made her way to the top and paved the way for female politicians in Argentina. The lobotomy part was a huge plus.

      Jennifer, I love your “Shelved dolls” articles, they literally are the best.

      You should totally do one on Eva Braun or something.

      • Ali

        Yes! Do Eva Braun! Also, this article was fantastic.

      • Jennifer Wright

        YES EVA BRAUN! I want to do the Mitford Sisters, too, but there are a lot of them, and it’s hard to know where to start.

    • Lana Kane

      Jennifer, please do one on Eva Braun and have you done one yet on Isabel of Castille? She had a pretty screwed up life and then you can talk about how she burnt hundreds of jews or made them convert!

      • Guest.

        I actually like Isabelle. Compared to others, she was pretty innocent.

    • Hannah

      Can you do a non white person next time?

      • Cristal

        Sarah Forbes Bonetta would be a good story.

    • Mints22

      It’s kind of annoying that everyone refers to her as a fascist. Fascism is, by definition, right-wing. Peronismo was leftist! “Totalitarian” is fair, but totalitarian is not the same as fascism. Sorry, </end political science nerd rant.

      • Naomi

        THANK you.

    • MR

      Nice write up. The rise of organized labor, Argentina’s version – she fit right into Peron’s populist political face.

    • Alle C

      That makes me feel cold all over. I had cervical cancer when I was 24, and my treatment was so non-invasive that I didn’t have to spend a single night in hospital. And yet, not but sixty year ago, women were fucking lobotomised. It makes me straight up appreciate how lucky I am to live in the time we live in, because but for the tick of the clock, there go I.

      • Emma

        Eva Peron also had unusual circumstances around her cancer, even for the time. Firstly, she didn’t know she had cancer, and was constantly informed that her symptoms were from all sorts of different things. Because of this, she put of any treatment and therefore allowed the cancer to completely ravage her body until it was too late. The lobotomy was because poor Eva was in severe, severe pain in the last few months of her life. Her last public appearance, she was held up by a large metal contraption hidden by a fur coat as she was too weak to stand, and by the end of the night she was visibly shaking in agony.

    • len132

      Can you do Eleanor of Aquitaine? Please please please?!?!?

      • MR

        Yeah what a feminine character – Kate Hepburn’s take on her in ‘Lion in the Winter’. Plantagenet – the Normans.

      • frenchhousewife

        yes yes please pretty please Eleanor of Aquitaine! I was in Chinon this summer and had some vague ideas about things she accomplished, but I think reading it here would be so much better!

    • Edward Serow

      As I read through these articles and following comments my thoughts take me back to the six years of actually knowing the Senora.Some opinions presented here contain some reality but none of the offerings tell it like it really was.Like the lady herself, the complex 33 short years of her life will never be known completely.My comment is short and as they say, sweet.It was the greatest six years of my life.She was/is very special. Viva Evita

    • GreerLovesGovert

      Great write up, Jennifer. You’re a very entertaining writer. Now I’m going to have to watch “Evita”.

    • Randi Newton

      WOW! I thought I knew everything about Evita…not the the lobotomy though, hardcore! No idea. I do know that one of her embalmed fingers broke off since her body was in-transit so much.
      Did you ever see that made for tv movie about Evita starring Faye Dunnaway in the late 80′s. Good times!

    • Naomi

      Can we have one on Ching Shih? She was one of the most bad-ass pirates in history.

      Ninon de l’Enclos? Juliette Récamier?

    • Heather H

      Jennifer, you really need a link to all of the Shelved Doll posts, maybe as one of the header options or a sidebar? Clicking on the tag doesn’t bring them all up.