TOP 10: Revolutionary women

By BRYAN OROZCO

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, here are 10 women who fought for the rights of gender, people and/or their country.

Their political thoughts and actions revolutionized their own era and set a precedent for today.

Angela Davis (1944- )

Angela Davis was a political activist, a scholar and at one time a most-wanted fugitive from the FBI in the 1960s.

She held membership in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and the American Communist Party. That involvement cost her a position as an assistant professor at the University of California-Los Angeles in 1970. Then Gov. Ronald Reagan attempted to have her barred from teaching in California.

Davis was accused in 1970 of supplying the guns in the death of federal judge Harold J. Haley. She fled, which created a national manhunt. She was caught in New York but later acquitted in 1972.

Davis retired as a professor in the History of Consciousness and the Feminist Studies departments at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Vilma Lucila Espín (1930-2007)

Considered “The First Lady of the Cuban Revolution,” Vilma Lucila Espín fought alongside the Castro brothers and later married Raul Castro, Cuba’s current president.

She was born into a wealthy family in Cuba. Her father was a lawyer for the rum company Bacardi. The revolution viewed Bacardi’s business exploits as treating Cuba like a “Yankee playground.”

After becoming one the first chemical engineers from the island, Espín joined the opposition against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.

She died on June 18, 2007 at the age of 77.

Janet Jagan (1920-2009)

Born in Chicago, Janet Jagen became the first female president of Guyana and fought for labor rights in the United States and abroad.

After receiving a college degree, she and her husband moved to Guyana in 1923. They founded the People’s Progressive Party, which promoted Marxist ideals

Their campaign to decolonize Guyana from the United Kingdom earned them jail time under the order of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

There were many attempts to remove her from leadership roles, some supported and funded by the U.S. government. However, Jagan became president of Guyana in 1997. By then, the country had gained its independence from the UK.

Jagan died on March 28, 2009 at the age of 88.

Phoolan Devi (1963-2001)

Phoolan Devi was a modern Robin Hood: loved by the poor, despised by the rich. She began a streak of violent robberies across northern and central India in the 1970s, targeting the rich and sharing her bounties with the poor.

In February 1983, Devi surrendered to authorities. She negotiated her sentence with the Indian government and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Within two years of her release in 1994, she was elected to India’s Parliament. She continued advocating for the poor, but this time through political action and mobilization of the people.

Three masked gunmen assassinated Devi in her home on July 25, 2001. She was 37.

Petra Herrera (Unknown)

The most well known soldaderas of Mexico’s second revolution, Herrera went into combat with the men by disguising her gender. Her role in the revolution was to blow up bridges, which hindered the oppositions from gaining ground on the revolutionaries. She participated in the second battle of Torreón on May 30, 1914 along with 400 other women. Although she showed great leadership and comradery, Pancho Villa refused to promote her to general.

She left Villa’s battalion to form her own all-woman battalion.

Blanca Canales (1906-1996)

In 1948, a bill known as the Gag Bill, or Law 53, was introduced in Puerto Rico. The bill made it a crime to own or display a Puerto Rican flag, sing a patriotic tune, speak or write of independence, or meet with anyone or hold any assembly in favor of Puerto Rican independence.

Blanca Canales was a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. On Oct. 30, 1950, the nationalist took up arms that were stored in her home and marched into the small town of Jayuya. They took over the police station and raised the Puerto Rican flag in defiance of the law.

The actions prompted the United States to declare martial law. Officials ordered the U.S. Army and Air Force to engage the revolutionaries.

The Nationalists held on against the Americans for three days, but were later arrested and sentenced to life in prison.

After 17 years in prison, Canales was granted a full pardon and released  in 1967. She died on July 25, 1996 at the age of 90.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

During the campaign season, it is sometimes hard to remember that U.S. women were not allowed to vote for almost 180 years after the country gained its independence.

Susan B. Anthony met Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851 and the two toured the country arguing the case for women’s suffrage, the right to vote.

Many attempted to stop her efforts. In 1872, she was arrested for voting illegally in the presidential election and a judge later fined her $100. She refused to pay and never did.

Her efforts pressured Congress to pass the 19th Amendment, which prohibits any U.S. citizen from being denied the right to vote based on gender.

Anthony died on March 13, 1906 at the age of 86.

Rasmea Odeh (1948- )

Rasmea Odeh is a Palestinian women who was convicted in 1969 for her membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and for her alleged involvement in a grocery store bombing in Jerusalem. She was sentenced to life in prison and was tortured while incarcerated in Israeli prison.

She was released after 10 years and migrated in 1995 to the United States from Jordan. She became a naturalized citizen and works as associate director of the Arab American Action Network in Chicago.

Odeh was convicted of immigration fraud on Nov. 10, 2014. She was sentenced in March 2015 to 18 months in federal prison and stripped of her U.S. citizenship. She will be deported to Jordan once she finishes serving her time.

Malala Yousafzai (1997-)

Age is but a number, even for a revolutionary. Malala Yousafzai began advocaying at age 12 for women’s rights, particularly the right to an education in Pakistan.

Her advocacy resulted in the Taliban sporadically closing schools by force and in death threats against her.

A gunman shot Yousafzai in the head on Oct. 9, 2012 while she was traveling home from school. She survived despite the serious injury.

In 2014, she won the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the youngest person to receive it. She continues to speak out on the importance of education for all.

Comandante Ramona (1959-2006)

Using a nom de guerre, Comandante Ramona was a Tzotzil guerilla and activist who led the rebels of the Zapatista National Liberation Army into the Mexican town of San Cristobal de las Casas on New Year’s Day 1994.

The activists sought land, jobs, housing, food, healthcare, justice and democracy. In addition to protesting the North American Free Trade Agreement, Ramona demanded an end to hundreds of years of exploitation and marginalization of indigenous peoples of Mexico.

She died on Jan.6, 2006 from kidney cancer.

Her real name and details of her pre-revolutionary life remain unknown.

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