They took up arms – some chose lethal weapons, and some chose the mightiest of weapons; the pen – and actively participated in revolutions in different parts of the political world. Here are 10 of those women revolutionaries who stood and fought for what they had believed in…
Captain Lakshmi was a revolutionary of the Indian independence movement, an officer of the Indian National Army, and the Minister of Women’s Affairs in the Azad Hind government. In the 40s, she commanded the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, an all-women regiment that aimed to overthrow the British-chosen Raj in colonial India. In 2002, she stood for Presidential elections, eventually losing the battle to A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Celia, the woman at the heart of the Cuban Revolution and a close friend of Fidel Castro, together with Frank Pais was one of the first women to assemble a combat squad during the revolution. She made the necessary arrangements throughout the southwest coastal region of Cuba for the Granma landing, and was responsible for organising reinforcements once the revolutionaries landed. In 1957, she joined the guerrillas and served as a messenger.
Blanca joined the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party in 1931 and helped organize the Daughters of Freedom, the women’s branch of the Party. As a leader of the Nationalist party in Jayuya, she led an armed revolt in 1950 against the United States, known as the Jayuya Uprising. She took over the police station, burned down the post office, cut the telephone wires, and raised the Puerto Rican flag in defiance of the Gag Law.
Sophia was a German student and revolutionary active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany. She is one of the great German heroes who actively opposed the Third Reich during World War II. She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother Hans. As a result, they were both executed by guillotine.
Constance was the first woman elected to the British House of Commons (though she did not take her seat). She was also one of the first women in the world to hold a cabinet position (Minister for Labour of the Irish Republic, 1919–1922). She supervised the setting-up of barricades as the Easter Rising of 1916 began and was in the middle of the fighting all around Stephen’s Green, even wounding a British army sniper.
Fashion advice attributed to her was: Dress suitably in short skirts and tough boots, leave your jewels in the bank… and buy a revolver.
She was the better half of Vladimir Lenin, but few know that Nadezhda was a Russian Bolshevik revolutionary and served as the Soviet Union’s Deputy Minister of Education. She was instrumental in the foundation of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League and the Pioneer movement as well as the Soviet educational system, including the censorship and political indoctrination within it.
Nwanyeruwa, an Igbo woman in Nigeria, posed the very first major challenge to British authority in West Africa during the colonial period. On November 18, 1929, a census man named Mark Emereuwa had told her to “count her goats, sheep and people” prompting her to initiate a women’s war to protest the taxation of women and the unrestricted power of the Warrant Chiefs. The British dropped their tax plans; the women forced the resignation of many errant Warrant Chiefs.
During the Mexican Revolution that started in 1910, Petra rose above the ideals of the norm set for female soldiers (known as soldaderas). Petra, who initially disguised herself as a male, joined the ranks of Villa’s army and kept her identity a secret. She was denied credit for the siege of Torreon; as a result she formed her own troop of all-female soldiers and became a role model for the country’s women.
Asmaa is an Egyptian activist and one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement credited with helping to spark a mass uprising through her video blog posted one week before the start of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. She is a prominent member of Egypt’s Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution and one of the leaders of the Egyptian revolution.
Kathleen Neal Cleaver
Kathleen Neal Cleaver was a member of the Black Panther Party and the first female member of the Party’s decision-making body. She and other women, such as Angela Davis, made up around two thirds of the Party at one point, despite the notion that the BPP was overwhelmingly masculine. In 1968, she ran for California’s 18th state assembly district as a candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party.