The Mexican Revolution and the United States in the Collections of the Library of Congress
Individual Women During the Revolution
Women participated in the Revolution in a variety of ways. Some, like Margarita Neri, Elisa Griensen Zambrano, Encarnación Mares and Col. María Quinteros de Meros, actually fought on the battlefield. Others, like Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza, Edith O’Shaughnessy, Hermila Galindo, and Alma Reed were more successful as journalists, espousing the rights of women, detailing battles, and presenting a positive view of the Revolution abroad. Still others, like Luz Corral and Alma Reed, gained some of their fame as wives and fiancées of men prominent during the Revolution.
Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza
Juana Belén Gutiérrez, born in Durango, wrote radical feminist literature against Catholicism, political corruption, and social injustices during the Porfiriato. Díaz had her imprisoned frequently, but she continued to broadcast her beliefs concerning the illegitimacy of political leaders and parties. She came to have little hope that the Revolution would bring change, especially once Carranza assassinated Zapata, whom she considered Mexico’s only real leader, in 1919.
Gutiérrez believed strongly in democracy and faulted Mexicans for not insisting on their rights. She fought for people to vote and overthrow the oligarchy of military men in favor of civil servants.
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Luz Corral, First Wife of Pancho Villa
Pancho Villa initially encountered his first wife Luz Corral in 1910 upon arriving in San Andrés, Chihuahua. Villa went to the town demanding supplies from its people. After discovering Corral’s mother’s poverty, Villa requisitioned only corn, coffee and tobacco from her small store, supplies Corral delivered directly to the troops. Friedrich Katz writes that Villa was immediately infatuated with her and quickly offered to marry her after the conflict, wasting no time with courtship. While Corral agreed, her mother was not inclined to approve of the pair and tried to intervene, to no avail.
Katz admits that Corral’s mother was justified in her wary attitude toward the marriage; Villa had already proposed to several other women in Chihuahua. However, Villa married Corral after the Treaty of Ciudad Juárez was signed in 1911. Although Villa went on to marry many other women, Corral is considered his first wife, and the only one to have contributed to his political career. Villa officially left Corral in 1921.
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Dolores Jiménez y Muro (1848–1925)
Presidents Díaz and later Huerta often imprisoned Dolores Jiménez y Muro, a socialist and political activist from Aguascalientes, for her work on many leftist journals, including La Mujer Mexicana, where she was a member of the editorial staff.
In 1911, Jiménez y Muro planned a conspiracy to bring Madero to the presidency, the Political and Social Plan Proclaimed by the States of Guerrero, Michoacan, Tlaxcala, Campeche, Puebla, and the Federal District (18 March, 1911). Unlike Madero, though, Jiménez y Muro believed in social and economic reforms. She also advocated the decentralization of education, fair pay for all workers, reasonable housing, and safeguards for the indigenous. Once Zapata learned of her views, he requested her help for his cause. She joined him in 1913 and stayed in Morelos until his assassination in 1919.
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Four Prominent Soldaderas
Margarita Neri was one of the few women singled out during the Revolution. Born in Quintana Roo in 1865, Neri was a landowner prior to the Revolution. After she was abandoned by men during the fighting, Neri raised her own troops, numbering about 200 workers at the beginning and increasing to 1,000 in just two months. Her forces followed her because she could shoot and ride as well as any of them. She led her troops through Tabasco and Chiapas on looting raids, frightening the governor of Guerrero so thoroughly he fled in a shipping crate when he learned of her approach. Stories about her contradict each other, so it is hard to know what to believe. Eventually she was executed, but who gave the order and when it took place remains unknown.
Elisa Griensen Zambrano
Elisa Griensen Zambrano was a young woman from Parral, Chihuahua. At the age of 12, she was already a strong supporter of Villa and passionately opposed to U.S. forces. When she learned that the men of Parral were unwilling to fight Pershing’s troops in 1916, she assembled a group of women and children to meet Major Frank Tompkins and his soldiers at the city limits. The women and children, with sticks and guns, forced Major Tompkins and his troops to retreat from Parral, ordering the major to say, “Viva México, Viva Villa.”
Encarnación Mares “Chonita” de Cárdenas
Encarnación Mares de Cárdenas achieved a very high status in one of the rebel forces opposed to Victoriano Huerta. As a result of her excellent work at the Battle of Lampazo, Nuevo León, she was promoted from corporal to lieutenant. Others described her as having short hair, a low voice and a tendency to wear ragged men’s clothing. Cárdenas was also described as fearless. She left the army on 7 March 1916 after the fighting in the north had died down.
Col. María Quinteras de Meras
Col. María Quinteras de Meras was a coronela whom Pancho Villa highly respected. She proved herself in the ten battles she fought during her three years in his rebel army from 1910-1913. After supposedly earning her place by shooting as well as the men, Quinteras de Meras became a high-ranking officer. According to the El Paso Morning Times (7 May, 1914), “some of her followers have come to believe she is endowed with some supernatural power” (42). In a manner similar to that of Lieutenant Mares de Cárdenas, Quinteras de Meras dressed in men’s clothing wearing khaki suits and cartridge belts. Both Quinteras de Meras and her husband fought voluntarily in the same rebel outfit. After the Revolution, the couple refused to accept payment from Villa for their services.
“Mexican Rebels Have Girl Leader.” Washington Herald. Collection of newspaper clippings donated by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 18 August 1911. Hispanic Division, Library of Congress
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Edith O’Shaughnessy and the Invasion of Veracruz
Edith O’Shaughnessy was a writer from South Carolina who was married to Nelson O’Shaughnessy, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to Mexico in 1913, after two years serving as the Second Secretary to the Embassy. Edith O’Shaughnessy wrote her mother informative letters while residing in Mexico City. These detailed letters were gathered together in a book that offered insights into the U.S. view of the Mexican Revolution.
About the invasion of Veracruz she wrote on 12:30 pm 21 April 1914, “Nelson has been informed through Mexican sources – a most embarrassing way to get the news- that Vera Cruz was taken by our ships at eight o’clock this morning” (O’Shaughnessy, A Diplomat’s Wife in Mexico, 285). At 8 pm on 21 April, O’Shaughnessy wrote that Huerta had told her husband “You [the U.S.] have seized our port. You have the right to take it, if you can, and we have the right to try to prevent you. Su Excelencia el Señor Presidente Wilson has declared war, unnecessarily, on a people that only ask to be let alone, to follow out their own revolution in their own way,” (O’Shaughnessy, A Diplomat’s Wife in Mexico, 287).
Edith O’Shaughnessy. A diplomat’s wife in Mexico: letters from the American Embassy at Mexico City, covering the dramatic period between October 8th, 1913, and the breaking off of diplomatic relations on 23rd April, 1914, together with an account of the occupation of Vera Cruz. New York: Harper & Brothers, c1916. F1234 .O83
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Hermila Galindo edited the feminist journal Mujer Moderna. In 1915, Galindo worked loyally for Carranza and frequently talked to women’s groups to encourage them to press for their rights. Galindo was precisely the kind of woman the moderates feared. She argued for general and sex education for women, and believed that women deserved every right granted to men, including the vote. Galindo supported General Pablo González to succeed Carranza, although the President himself had chosen Ignacio Bonillas. Consequently, she lost Carranza’s trust and became isolated and inactive after 1919.
Hermila Galindo to Venustiano Carranza. Un presidenciable. (Mexico, 1919). F1234 .G6357
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Many in Mexico revere Alma Read, known as La Peregrina (“the Pilgrim”) for her sensitive journalism. In 1921, following the Mexican Revolution, she famously defended Simón Ruiz, a 17-year-old Mexican boy without documents, who was tried and sentenced to hang because a U.S. lawyer recommended that he plead guilty. Reed wrote often against the execution of minors and thanks in part to her, the California constitution was amended. A San Franciscan, Reed traveled to Mérida, Yucatan after having written many articles praising the Obregón revolutionary government. One memorable part of her story involved her engagement to the local governor, Felipe Carrillo Puerto. After she left Mérida to arrange marriage plans in San Francisco, she learned by telegram that her fiancé and twelve other men had been executed.
“Waiting on the Maya Ghosts,” Article by Alma Reed in the New York Times. 25 March, 1923.
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