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Women of the revolution

7 September 2009


Women served as not only camp followers, but as soldiers and officers in the Mexican Revolution, I said in Gods, Gachupines and Gringos.  I tried to at least mention some of the more prominent women in Mexican history in my book, but this short (just under seven minute) video highlights some I should have given more attention had they received the attention in the standard histories they deserve.

These revolutionary women served as propagandists,  labor organizers, diplomats, and gun runners.  Many continued their struggle for a better Mexico the rest of their lives.

María Arias Bernal, the gun-slinging (and gun-running) school-ma’arm, became famous as “María Pistolas” but died young.  Neither she, nor Dolores Jiménez, who was sixty when the Revolution broke out, would not live long enough to see women receive the vote.

Carmen SerdanCarmen Serdán (whose birth and death dates [1875-1948] are wrong in the film) also died before women received full emancipation in 1953.  Although greatly respected and honored for her early role in the Maderist uprising, after her release from prison she preferred a more traditional role: serving as a nurse during the fighting, and later as surrogate mother to her martyred brother Achiles’ orphaned children.

Hermila Galindo — who had served the Revolution as a journalist and diplomat — would be the first woman to serve in the Chamber of Deputies.  Elvira Carillo Puerto, called “the red nun” for her dedication to the socialism before and after the Revolution, lived long enough to succeed in her post-revolutionary struggle — both before her election to the Chamber, and during her time as a socialist deputy — for legal recognition of a woman’s right to birth control.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 7 September 2009 10:27 pm

    I was introduced to the role of women in the Mexican revolution(s?) in a roundabout way–in my mid-twenties I saw the movie, and later bought the book, Like Water for Chocolate. What a radical notion, that a woman could be a guerrilla general! And even more fantastic, there really were women like Generala Gertrudis, only more so. That was my first clue that Mexico was full of these little (and not so little) surprises. And that when it comes to radicalism and freedom, particularly for women, North America pales by comparison…

    Up here, the closest thing we have is Laura Secord, who overheard a couple of US commanders discussing plans for an attack (at Lundy’s Lane, in what’s now Niagara Falls, I think), and relayed the message to the British commander at some personal risk. Now her name (and a prim, unrealistic, romanticized portrait of her face, more reminiscent of Laura Ingalls or Laura Ashley) is on boxes of chocolates–produced by a firm which has since been bought out by a US company. Nuts!

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