Isabel Peron was born MarÃa Estela Martinez Cartas on February 4, 1931, in La Rioja, a provincial capital in the impoverished mountainous region of northwestern Argentina, became the first female president in Latin America when she assumed the Argentine presidency from 1974 to 1976 upon the death of her husband, Juan Peron. Her term in office was characterized by political violence and economic instability until she was finally overthrown by the military.
Her father, a local bank manager, died when she was still a young child. By the time of her father’s death, the family had moved to Buenos Aires, where she studied piano, dance, and French, although she was not able to finish her formal education.
After leaving school she became a dancer, performing in folk music groups, night clubs, and finally the ballet corps of two leading theaters in Buenos Aires. She acquired the name Isabel on her confirmation in the Catholic Church and later adopted it as her professional name when she began her dancing career.
In 1956, while on tour with a dance troupe through Latin America, she met Juan Peron, who had recently been ousted from the Argentine presidency after roughly ten years in power. Giving up her career as a dancer, she became Peron’s personal secretary and accompanied him into exile in Madrid, where the two were married in 1961.
In 2007 an Argentine judge ordered the arrest of Isabel Peron over the forced disappearance of an activist in February 1976, on the grounds that the disappearance was authorised by her signing of three decrees allowing Argentina’s armed forces to take action against “subversives.”