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Women and the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920

  • Anna Macias (a1)

Women played a significant but, until recently, largely overlooked role in the complex and destructive civil war known as the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. A number of women trained and educated in the vocational and normal schools and molded by the incipient feminist movement of the Porfirian era actively sought involvement in the struggle during its various phases. A much larger number of women of the rural and urban lower classes found themselves caught up in the struggle and had no choice but to become actively involved, especially in the military aspects of the Revolution. Still others, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and including women of every class, were among the victims and casualties of that conflict. Lastly, women of primarily but not exclusively middle and upperclass origins who strongly identified with the Catholic Church became active and bitter enemies of the decidedly anti-clerical leadership of the Revolution.

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1 Only one monograph has appeared on the subject. See Alatorre, Angeles Mendieta, La mujer en la revolución mexicana (“Biblioteca del Instituto Nacional de Estudios Históricos de la Revolución Mexicana,” No. 23; México, 1961). See also Turner, Frederick C.Los efectos de la participación femenina en la Revolución de 1910,” Historia Mexicana, 16 (1966–67), pp. 603620.

2 It is believed that as many as two million Mexicans lost their lives in the Revolution. Cumberland, Charles, Mexico: The Struggle for Modernity (New York, 1968), cites this figure on p. 246, calculating “that from the first three censuses and the last an approximation of a growth-rate curve may be constructed, and on such a curve the population of 1921 should have fallen between 17 and 16 million—but the census of that year counted slightly less than 14.5 million.” Ibid., p. 245. The actual figure was 14,334,780. The 1910 census counted 15,160,369 Mexicans, so that if both sets of figures are correct the nation had 825,589 fewer inhabitants in 1921 than in 1910. See Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Secretaría de Industria y Comercio, Dirección General de Estadística, Censo general de población, 1960; Resumen general (México, 1962), p. xxii.

3 This is noted by Mendieta, op. cit., pp. 22–26, and by Robles, Miguel Alessio Voces de combate (México, 1929), p. 151. Earlier, José María Vigil, director of the Biblioteca Nacional de México and a strong supporter of women’s rights in the last quarter of the 19th century, noted the activist role women played during the French intervention. See his La mujer mexicana (México, 1893), pp. 27–29. For a modern study of the role of women during the French intervention see Zendejas, Adelina, La mujer en la intervención francesa (“Colección del Congreso Nacional de Historia para el Estudio de la Guerra de Intervención,” No. 2; Mexico, 1962).

4 Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., p. 33.

5 For an excellent study of the Precursor movement see Cockcroft, James D. Intellectual Precursors of the Mexican Revolution, 1900–1913 (Austin, 1968).

6 Vesper: Justicia y Libertad, Año I, No. 1 (May 1901).

7 Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., p. 33.

8 Ibid., p. 31.

9 Ibid., p. 31.

10 Vesper, Año III, No. 34 (July 1903), p. 1.

11 Vesper, Año X, No. 1 (8 May 1910), p. 1.

12 Ibid., p. 1.

13 Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., p. 32.

14 El Desmonte: Por la Tierra y por la Raza, Vol. I, No. 1 (15 June 1919), p. 4.

15 Ibid., p. 1.

16 Ibid., p. 1.

17 Ibid., p. 1.

18 Ibid., p. 2.

19 Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., p. 96.

20 Ibid., pp. 96–103.

21 Ibid., p. 96. Cockcroft, mentions her twice in his Intellectual Precursors, pp. 80 and 189. She was a member of the editorial staff of La Mujer Mexicana from July 15, 1905 until the end of that year.

22 Magaña, Gildardo, Emiliano Zapata y el agrarismo en México (2 vols., Mexico, 1934), 1, 119120.

23 Ibid., I, 121.

24 See ibid., I, 122–124 for the full text of the plan. It is also reprinted in Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., pp. 97–100.

25 Cockcroft, op. cit., pp. 188–189.

26 The full text of the PLM 1906 platform is found in ibid., pp. 239–245.

27 Point 12 in the 1911 Plan Político Social in Alatorre, Mendieta, La mujer en la revolución mexicana, p. 97.

28 Cockcroft, op. cit., pp. 129–133.

29 Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., p. 97.

30 Wolf, Donna M.Women in Modern Mexico,” (unpublished essay, 1975), quoting Peñafiel, Antonio, Estadística industrial (México, 1902), pp. 272 and passim. See also Hernández, Ana María, La mujer mexicana en la industria textil (México, 1940), pp. 2738, for the active role of women in the textile workers’ strikes of 1907 and in the precursor movement.

31 Komarowsky, Mirra, Women in the Modern World: Their Education and Their Dilemmas (Boston, 1953), p. 50.

32 Turner, Frederick C. The Dynamic of Mexican Nationalism (Chapel Hill, 1968), p. 185.

33 Mirra Komarowsky, op. cit., p. 50.

34 Ibid., p. 50.

35 Of women’s work in the rural community of San José de Gracia, Michoacán between 1861 and 1882, Luis González observes that “most of the hard work fell to the women: grinding corn on the metate, making tortillas, cooking meals for the men, keeping the fire going, cleaning, washing clothes, sewing, darning, carrying water, scolding their husbands and children, taking care of the pigs and chickens, bleaching wax, making cheese, weaving—in short, keeping so busy with household chores and home industries that they got no rest. It was only the men who could allow themselves the vice of idleness.” González, Luis, San José de Gracia: Mexican Village in Transition (“The Texas Pan American Series,” Austin, 1974), p. 49. For examples of the work rural women perform outside the home in contemporary Mexico see Elmendorf, Mary L. La mujer maya y el cambio (“SEP-SETENTAS,” No. 85; México, 1972), passim.

36 Magaña, , Emiliano Zapata y el agrarismo en México, 1, 125.

37 Ibid., I, 126.

38 For an interesting evaluation of her own career, see Galindo, Hermila, La doctrina Carranza y el acercamiento indolatino (México, 1919), pp. 159161.

39 Ibid., pp. 160–161, and Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., pp. 79–80. No copies of Mujer Moderna were found in the Hemeroteca Nacional in Mexico City, but two essays Ms. Galindo prepared for the first and second feminist congresses in Mérida summarize her views on women. The first is “La mujer en el porvenir,” (November 29, 1915) and the second is “Estudio de la Srita. Hermila Galindo con motivo de los temas que han de absolverse en el segundo Congreso feminista de Yucatán,” (November 20, 1916).

40 Galindo, op. cit., p. 161.

41 Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., p. 79.

42 Ibid., pp. 79–80.

43 Galindo, op. cit., pp. 1–16 and passim.

44 Galindo, Hermila, Un presidenciable. El General don Pablo González (México, 1919). Carranza chose Ignacio Bonillas, Mexican ambassador to the United States, to succeed him while Alvaro Obregón led the successful revolution to oust Carranza. See Cumberland, Charles, Mexican Revolution: The Constitutionalist Years (Austin, 1974), pp. 404413.

45 Ms. Galindo notes in her November 1916 “Estudio” (see footnote 39 for the complete title) that her “La mujer en el porvenir” aroused a storm at the First Feminist Congress of Yucatan because her ideas “afectaban hondas preoccupaciones que tienen su raiz en el pasado,” p. 5.

46 Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., p. 80. Mendieta states that Hermila Galindo continued to write books and articles after Carranza’s death, most of which were never published. Ibid., p. 80.

47 Ms. Galindo’s views on women and the Church are most fully explored in her November 1916 “Estudio,” pp. 14–18.

48 For an article by article comparison of the 1857 and 1917 Constitutions, see Branch, H.N. trs. and ed., “The Mexican Constitution of 1917 Compared with the Constitution of 1857,” in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vols. 69–71 (Jan.-May, 1917). Article 3 of the 1917 Constitution prohibited any Church or minister from directing schools of primary education. Article 130 forbade foreign clergymen in Mexico and permitted the States to limit the number of clergy who could officiate within their boundaries. See ibid., pp. 2 and 103–106.

49 A good example was the feminist Elena Landazuri, who was President of the YWCA in Mexico in the early 1920s. See Clarke, Ida C. and Sheridan, Lillian B. eds. Women of 1924 International (New York, 1924) pp. 253254.

50 Galindo, , “Estudio …” (November 20, 1916), pp. 1820.

51 Galindo, Hermila, “La mujer en el porvenir,” (Mérida, Yuc., 1915), pp. 112.

52 Castillo, José y Pina, , Cuestiones sociales (México, 1934), pp. 162164.

53 Galindo, , “Estudio …” (November 20, 1916), p. 12.

54 Ibid., p. 12.

55 Ibid., p. 14.

56 Ibid., p. 25.

57 At the First Feminist Congres held in Mérida, Yucatán in January, 1916 the majority of the delegates approved a motion that women be permitted to vote in municipal elections. See de Yucatan, Congreso Feminista, Anales de esa memorable asamblea (Mérida, Yuc, 1916), p. 127.

58 Galindo, , “Estudio …” p. 25.

59 Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., p. 80.

60 García, Fernando Romero ed., Diario de los debates del congreso constituyente (2 vols.; México, 1917), 2, 708709.

61 La Voz de la Revolución (Mérida, Yuc.), March 15, 1917, p. 1.

62 Ibid., p. 1.

63 Galindo, op. cit., p. 159.

64 Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., pp. 34, 79, 93 and 174.

65 La Mujer Mexicana, March 1, 1904, p. 9 and July 5, 1907, pp. 61–62.

66 Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., p. 111.

67 Ibid., pp. 30, 31, 34 and 40.

68 Ibid., p. 93 and Robles, Alessio, Voces de Combate, pp. 151152.

69 Fernández, Aurora, Mujeres que honran a la patria (México, 1958), pp. 6770.

70 Ibid., p. 71.

71 Ibid., p. 71.

72 Franz, David A.Bullets and Bolshevists. A History of the Mexican Revolution and Reform in Yucatán, 1910–1924” (unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, Department of History, University of New Mexico, 1973), p. 36.

73 Turner, , “Los efectos de la participación femenina en la Revolución de 1910,” p. 611.

74 Mendieta Alatorre, op. cit., pp. 173–174.

75 Fernández, , Mujeres que bonran a la patria, pp. 121130.

76 Ibid., p. 130.

77 Turner, in The Dynamic of Mexican Nationalism, p. 197 notes: “Depicting soldaderas in individual portraits, battle scenes and on the covers of widely distributed popular ballad sheets, José Guadalupe Posada uniformly portrayed them as beautiful, well-groomed, and determined young ladies.” For photographs of read soldaderas, see Casasola, Gustavo, Historia gráfica de la revolución mexicana: 1900–1960 (4 vols.; México, 1960), II, 720723.

78 See, for example. Española, Real Academia, Diccionario de la lengua española (Madrid, 1956); Alonso, Martín, comp.. Diccionario del español moderno (Madrid, 1968); de la Cadena, Mariano Velázquez, et al., comps., Velázquez Spanish and English Dictionary (Chicago, 1964); and Cuyas, Arturo, comp., Appleton’s New English-Spanish, Spanish-English Dictionary (New York, 1940).

79 Quirk, Robert E., The Mexican Revolution and the Catholic Church, 1910–1920 (Bloomington, Ind., 1973), p. 58.

80 Turner, , The Dynamic of Mexican Nationalism, p. 183.

81 King, Rosa E., Tempest Over Mexico: A Personal Chronicle (New York, 1944), p. 183.

82 Quoted by Scalisc Regoli, Mary L., “La mujer en la novela de la revolución” (unpublished M. A. thesis, Escuela de Verano, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1963), p. 106.

83 Reed, John, Insurgent Mexico (New York, 1914), pp. 99109.

84 Casasola, , Historia gráfica de la revolución mexicana, 2, 720.

85 Guerrero, Julio, La genesis del crimen en México (México, 1901), pp. 163164, as quoted in Wolf, Donna M.Women in Mexico, 1810–1910,” (unpublished essay, 1974), p. 5.

86 King, , Tempest Over Mexico, pp. 9394.

87 Ibid., p. 183.

88 Cumberland, , Mexico: The Struggle for Modernity, p. 245.

89 Mason, R.H. Picture of Life in Mexico, 1849 (London, 1851), p. 62, as quoted in Wolf, , “Women in Mexico, 1810–1910,” p. 5.

90 Casasola, op. cit; II, 720. Turner observes that “the Mexican soldiers in both federal and revolutionary ranks took their women along with them in the railway cars that carried belligerents from one part of Mexico to another. The soldaderas … provided a commissariat for Mexican troops, and both federal and revolutionary chieftains regularly provided for their transportation along with the troops in the major campaigns.” Turner, , The Dynamic of Mexican Nationalism, p. 185.

91 Casasola, op. cit., II, 720.

92 Ibid., II, 720.

93 King, , Tempest Over Mexico, p. 69.

94 I am grateful to Mrs. Anita Aguilar and Dr. Rosalind Rosoff Beimler of the American School in Mexico City and authors of Así firmaron el Plan de Ayala (“SEP-SETENTAS,” No. 241; Mexico, 1976), for introducing me to La Coronela. I attended three tape recording sessions in 1973 and 1974 in which Mrs. Aguilar and Dr. Beimler interviewed La Coronela of Yautepec as part of an oral history project to record the testimony of surviving Zapatistas in Morelos. La Coronela died in 1977.

95 Regoli, Mary Scalise, “La mujer en la novela de la revolución,” p. 77.

96 All the material on La Coronela is based on her own account as related in October 1973 in Yautepec, Morelos.

97 I am grateful to Dr. Rosalind Rosoff Beimler for providing information on these women. See also Alatorre, Mendieta, La mujer en la revolución mexicana, pp. 87 and 89–92.

98 Ibid., p. 109.

99 Cumberland, , Mexico: The Struggle for Modernity, pp. 245246.

100 Ibid., pp. 247–248.

101 Turner, , The Dynamic of Mexican Nationalism, p. 191.

l02 Lara, Luis y Pardo, , La prostitución en México (México, 1908), pp. 1920 and 26–27.

l03 In 1906 there were 4,000 known prostitutes in Paris, in a population five times larger than that of Mexico City. Ibid., pp. 19, 22 and 29.

104 Cumberland, , Mexico: The Struggle for Modernity, p. 247, notes that “corn, that great and necessary staple of the populace, had fallen to a point well below the 2-million-mark—a total production not significantly greater than that in the late eighteenth century and far less than the earlier period on a per capita basis.”

105 See Lynch, James B.Orozco’s House of Tears,” Journal of Inter-American Studies, 3 (July, 1961), pp. 376377.

106 Ibid., p. 376.

107 Dr. Luis Lara y Pardo demonstrated hostility and hatred toward the prostitutes he studied in his La prostitución en México. He did not believe them when they testified that they became prostitutes because of poverty or seduction and abandonment and insisted that most streetwalkers willingly gave up their virginity and then entered a life of vice with no effort whatsoever. See pp. 104 ff.

108 See Quirk, op. cit., pp. 54–60 for details of the ill-treatment of clergymen and nuns by such revolutionaries as Villa, Fierro, Obregón, Villarreal and others. A contemporary account of the mistreatment of nuns by Carrancistas is provided by Planchet, P.R. La priest in Devine, Texas, in La persecución a las religiosas y señoras, era Carrancista (n.p., 1922).

109 Article 5 of the 1857 Constitution in Branch, , ed., “The Mexican Constitution of 1917 compared with the Constitution of 1857,” p. 3.

110 Article 27 in ibid., pp. 15–16.

111 Article 123 in ibid., p. 103. In seeming contradiction to this provision, the following section of Article 123 stated that “the church and state are independent of each other.” The contradiction was noted by the constituent assembly in 1916–1917 and the phrase was dropped. See ibid., p. 103.

112 Ibid., p. 104.

113 The masses still flock to the Guadalupe and Chalma shrines. Of the former, the architect of the new basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico, Vazquez, Pedro Ramírez, observed that the Guadalupe shrine “receives 1,500 pilgrimages and six million visitors per year. Even during Holy Year in 1975, St. Peter’s in the Vatican only had six million visitors.” Quoted in The New York Times, October 12, 1976, p. 10.

114 For an illuminating review of religion and church-state relations in Mexico, see Tannenbaum, Frank, Peace by Revolution. An Interpretation of Mexico (New York, 1933), pp. 3467.

115 Quirk, op. cit., p. 17.

116 The general was Ramón F. Iturbe. Guzmán, Martín Luis, The Eagle and the Serpent (New York, 1965), p. 84.

117 Quirk, op. cit., pp. 54–60 and passim.

118 Branch, ed., “The Mexican Constitution of 1917 Compared with the Constitution of 1857,” p. 2.

119 Article 130 in ibid., p. 104.

120 Quirk, op. cit., p. 32.

121 Garibi, J. Ignacio Dávila, Memoria histórica de las labores de la Asociación de Damas Católicas de Guadalajara (Guadalajara, Jal., 1920), pp. 3 and 5.

122 Ibid., pp. 23–24.

123 Speaking of the Confederation of Catholic Associations of Mexico, Quirk observes that “laymen were permitted to hold titular positions, but the key offices remained in the hands of the clergy, with most important posts being filled by episcopal appointments,” Quirk, op. cit., p. 126.

124 Garibi, Dávila, Memoria histórica, pp. 3 and 9.

125 Ibid., pp. 5–6.

126 Ibid., p. 6.

127 Quirk, op. cit., p. 59.

128 Ibid., p. 59.

129 Ibid., p. 75.

130 Ibid., p. 106.

131 Ibid., p. 107.

132 Ibid., p. 109.

133 Ibid., pp. 110–111. The crucial role women played in the Jalisco boycott is fully explored in the anonymous booklet, La cuestion religiosa en Jalisco (México, 1918), pp. 48–74.

134 On this point see Turner, , Thy Dynamic of Mexican Nationalism, Mendieta Alatorre, La mujer en la revolución mexicana, p. 15, and Macías, Anna, “The Mexican Revolution Was No Revolution For Women,” in Hanke, Lewis ed., History of Latin American Civilization: Sources and Interpretations. 2 vols. (2nd ed., Boston, 1973), 2, 459469.

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