Esther Neira de Calvo (1890- 1978), educator, politician, diplomat, and feminist, was born on May 1, 1890 in Panama. In addition to attending the Institut Padagogique de Wavre-Notre Dame in Belgium, she studied at Mount St. Vincent's College and at Columbia University in New York.
Esther Neira de Calvo became well known as an advocate in her native Panama in the realms of education, politics, women's rights, and social services. She was Inspector General of Education, (1923-1927). Significantly, she presided over Panama's Normal School (1927-1938), the only teacher's training school for women in Panama. She taught courses in pedagogy, languages, psychology, and comparative education. In 1938, she founded the Lyceum, a university preparatory school for women which she directed until 1945. In Panama, she was founder and president of the National Society for the Advancement of Women (1923) and the Women's Patriotic League (1945).
During the Second World War, Esther Neira de Calvo coordinated cultural affairs for the Ministry of Education in Panama and supported the American troops who were assigned there during the conflict. In 1945, she was elected nationally to the Third Constituent Assembly, where she contributed to the drafting of the new Constitution of Panama enacted in 1946. She authored, as legislator, the laws creating the school of social service at the University of Panama and the Juvenile National Council.
Esther Neira de Calvo moved to Washington, D.C. in 1949. She was named executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission of Women by the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), and she worked in that capacity until 1965. Subsequently, she served with the rank of ambassador as the alternate representative of Panama to the Council of the OAS, 1966-1968.
Esther Neira de Calvo attended numerous international conferences as a representative of the government of Panama. She won many awards and honorary citations over her long career.
Raul J. Calvo, Esther's husband, died in 1958 in Washington, D.C.
Esther Neira de Calvo died at age 87 on March 24, 1978 in Washington, D.C.
[Source:] Curatorial file of the Esther Neira de Calvo Papers.