WOMEN IN MEXICAN REVOLUTION OF 1910.
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Roles of soldaderas, history, lifestyle, relationship with male soldiers, types, motivation, persecution of, leadership.... More...
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Roles of soldaderas, history, lifestyle, relationship with male soldiers, types, motivation, persecution of, leadership.
Women soldiers (soldaderas) played an important role during the Mexican Revolution which began in 1910. It has been noted that "practically every soldier" in that war was "accompanied by his soldadera" (Thompson, 1921, p. 233). These women were found in the rebel bands of Emiliano Zapata, Francisco Villa and Venustiano Carranza, as well as in the troops of the regular Mexican army (federales) (Miller, 1985, p. 292). For the most part, the soldaderas held traditional feminine roles during the Revolution. As such, their main functions were "to cook and care for the men" (Salas, 1990, p. 39). The soldaderas also served an important purpose by raising the morale of the male troops. In the words of the American journalist John Reed, "the soldadera served as more than a modern commissary, she provided the comfort and companionship that kept the soldier on the move for so many
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According to Elizabeth Salas, the term soldaderafirst came about during that time. In view of all these hardships, the question may be raised as to whyso many women became soldaderas during the Mexican Revolution. NewYork: Robert M. Although the life of the male soldierwas difficult, that of the soldadera was far harder. Mexico: A history. 276). 135). Salas, Elizabeth. 44). Some of the women who chose to fight on ideologicalgrounds became famous leaders of their own military units. 98). (1969). D. Forthe most part, the soldaderas held traditional feminine roles during theRevolution. The fourth type were those women who chose to becomesoldaderas in order to assist in the revolutionary effort. The life of the soldadera was filled with hardship. 52). They felt that the women were disruptive and burdensome to themovement of the troops (Salas, 199 , p. 44). The women refused to respond toVilla's demand, despite being threatened with death (Salas, 199 , p. Still later in his account,Reed indicated that Elizabetta slept with him that night because she wasnot yet ready to sleep with the Captain so soon after her husband's death.However, by the next morning she had changed her mind and become totallycommitted to her role as the Captain's servant. 34). 39). 41-42). In the words of the Americanjournalist John Reed, "the soldadera served as more than a moderncommissary, she provided the comfort and companionship that kept thesoldier on the move for so many terrible years" (1969, p. 43). 44). Forexample, the women would often "take up arms to defend their husbands"while the soldiers were resting or eating (Salas, 199 , p. According to the historian RobertRyan Miller, these heroic women were referred to as soldadas, in contrastto the camp followers known as soldaderas, "unarmed women who cooked forthe soldiers, shared their beds, and nursed the wounded and ill" (Miller,1985, p. These women were found in the rebel bands ofEmiliano Zapata, Francisco Villa and Venustiano Carranza, as well as in thetroops of the regular Mexican army (federales) (Miller, 1985, p. At the same time, however, "her skin was the color ofdark cream, her eyes large, blue-black and active," and when "she removedher small campaign hat, a mass of dark red hair, carefully dressed, wasexposed to the sun" (p. Mexico: The land of unrest. (1933). 41). Although these officers triedto eliminate the use of soldaderas during the years of the Revolution, theywere unable to do so, because the tradition of women accompanying men inwar was too strongly ingrained in the consciousness of the Mexican militaryat the time (p. In her bookSoldaderas in the Mexican Military, Elizabeth Salas describes other bravewomen in the Revolution, such as Petra Herrera, who disguised herself as aman "in order to be a line soldier and become eligible for battlefieldpromotions" (p. 97). 292). She wore a cartridgebelt around her waist and was "a quick and deadly shot with either rifle orpistol" (Dunn, 1933, p. O'Malley: "Women's legal statusimproved under the post-revolutionary government but did not reach paritywith that of men. Miller, Robert Ryal. Jaquette, Jane S. 261). As such, their main functions were "to cook and care for themen" (Salas, 199 , p. The soldaderas also served an important purposeby raising the morale of the male troops. (1973, May). McBride and Company. One of the most notable women soldiers of the Revolution wasMargarita Neri. Some womentook up arms because of their commitment to the revolutionary cause, andmany of these women soldiers became distinguished fighters who had a greatimpact on the outcome of the Revolution. Women soldiers (soldaderas) played an important role during theMexican Revolution which began in 191 . Villa felt that only men should be in thearmy, because women were an "encumbrance" to mobility (Miller, 1985, p.3 ). Eisenhower, John S. (1913). 11). For example, MariaQuinteras de Meras served as Colonel under Villa's command prior to hisdecision to remove all women from his forces. H. Reed, John. La Soldadera, (From Insurgent Mexico, 1914).Reprinted in James W. Unfortunately, "such actions oftenended fatally, as many women died" (Salas, 199 , p. The soldaderas who followedVilla's troops endured the additional hardship of traveling "miles on endatop Villa's freight trains while their horses, mules, and cattle rodeinside" (Eisenhower, 1993, p. According to therecollection of the historian Cleofas Calleros, who was a child during theRevolution, "one of Villa's men asked what to do about the baby and Villasaid he wasn't doing any good, so to shoot him, too" (Peterson and Knoles,1977, p. 292). In many cases, the soldaderas joinedthe men in fighting against the enemy. Turner, Timothy G. 133). Norman:University of Oklahoma Press. There isevidence that women in ancient Mesoamerica engaged in warfare alongside themen, and many of them were esteemed leaders of armies. Lippincott Company. O'Malley, Ilene V. Villa spent much time and energy trying to reduce the number ofwomen among his troops. 344-354. Knopf, pp. 96). 97). In additionto caring for the men, the soldaderas often joined in the fighting. The myth of the revolution: Hero cultsand the institutionalization of the Mexican state, 192 -194 . 39). When anunseen woman took a shot at Villa, he demanded that the soldaderas turnover the culprit from among the crowd. New York: Harper and Brothers. The soldaderas faced the daily threat of beingkilled or wounded on the battlefield. Many of these womenwere burdened by the need to care for their children as well as their man.In caring for her man, the soldadera "loaded his rifle, cooked for him,tended to him, and often carried her latest baby slung in the rebozo on herback" (Reed, 1969, p. W. This changed duringthe pre-Columbian period, as "a more complex, male-dominated religious,military, and bureaucratic state developed" in the region (p. New York: HastingsHouse Publishers. Intervention!: The United Statesand the Mexican Revolution, 1913-1917. Dunn, H. Duringthe Spanish Conquest of the 16th century, women continued to serve in war,although their function was largely limited to providing food and medicalcare to male soldiers. This attitude failed to take into consideration thetrue role played by the brave women of the Revolution. Mexican society remained profoundly sexist" (O'Malley,1986, p. Most men in the Mexican troops accepted the soldaderas as a naturalpart of the military experience. (1933). Other women were "abandoned orabducted and raped by soldiers" and thus "had little choice but to becomesoldaderas" (p. The legends of the brave soldaderas of the MexicanRevolution have lived on in literature, music and art. Dunn's first-hand description of her, Neri was toughlike a man, and yet she had many feminine qualities. For example, whileseizing a railroad station in Chihuahua in 1916, Villa and his men tookapproximately eighty soldaderas and their children prisoner. In addition tofacing the dangers of open warfare, the women had to travel countless mileseach day, often on foot. As commander of a large group of Maya Indian fighters inthe mountainous region of Guerrero, "La Neri" was described as an energeticleader and as "a most vehement young Joan of Arc" (Baerlein, 1913, p. New York: W. For example,Margarita Neri ("La Neri") and Colonel Maria Quinteras de Meras were bothhighly acclaimed leaders of rebel troops during the Revolution. A bit later, Reed described her as speaking in "the harsh, whiningvoice that all Mexican women have" (p. 233). Villa wasknown to be extremely cruel toward the soldaderas. 276). Like most men at the time, Reed "pejoratively judged allthe soldaderas as little more than prostitutes who wantonly followed thesoldiers" (p. Another legendary female warrior was twelve year oldEliza Grienssen, who led a group of women and children to chase Pershing'stroops out of Parral after the men of the town failed to repel them (pp. Women fighters had existed in the region of Mexico long before theRevolution of 191 . 42). Peterson, Jessie, and Thelma Cox Knoles, eds. For example, John Reed, an American writer in Mexicoduring the Revolution, showed a typically condescending, sexist attitudetoward the soldaderas. However, Mexican women did not attain full equality with men afterthe Revolution. 5). A newspaper article of thetime claimed that Quinteras de Meras was able to shoot and throw a rope aswell as any man; furthermore, it was reported that "the colonel has ledmany desperate charges and her followers have come to believe she isendowed with some supernatural power" (Salas, 199 , p. Michaels, eds. 52). The people of Mexico: Who they are andhow they live. In her bookSoldaderas in the Mexican Military, Elizabeth Salas described four basicreasons for this decision. Austin: University of Texas Press. 46).Finally, Villa ordered his men to shoot all of the women one by one. Soldaderas in the Mexican military: Mythand history. Journal of Marriage and the Family 35: pp. By the time of the Mexican Revolution, the use of soldaderas ascaretakers had become a firmly established tradition among Mexican troops. The Mexican troops were capable of moving fiftymiles each day if necessary, with the average day's march being abouttwenty-four miles (Thompson, 1921, p. Despite such persecutions, several women soldiers held importantmilitary roles in the Mexican Revolution. 39). (199 ). References Baerlein, Henry. According to H. Some of the women felt a sense of duty tofollow their husbands or lovers and to care for them wherever they went.These women became soldaderas "out of duty to their traditional roles"(Salas, 199 , p. Some historians have claimed that theparticipation of women in the Revolution led to "an ideological changefavorable to the emancipation of women" after the war (Jaquette, 1973, p.345). (1985). In his book Insurgent Mexico, Reed described hisencounter with a woman named Elizabetta, soldadera to Captain Felix Romero. These women"wanted to be camp followers or to fight for idealistic or personalreasons" (p. (1977). It has been noted that"practically every soldier" in that war was "accompanied by his soldadera"(Thompson, 1921, p. In the words of Ilene V. 44). Calleros claimed that Villa "then rode his horse over thepiled-up bodies" (p. Unfortunately, mostfictional accounts of the soldaderas reinforce the negative stereotypesassociated with them, and thus frequently depict "an unequal relationbetween male and female soldiers or camp followers characterized by thewomen's service and sacrifice for the men" (O'Malley, 1986, p. Atthe end of the massacre, only one baby remained alive. From this, it is clear that women soldiers played a more importantrole in the Mexican Revolution than simply providing domestic chores andcompanionship to the men. New York:Greenwood Press. The crimson jester: Zapata of Mexico. (1921). According to Reed, the Captain had ordered her to follow him and she haddone so, "unquestioningly, after the custom of her sex and country" (p.98). 39). Dunn further noted that "she shook hands,like a man" and that she avoided being embraced when greeted by EmilioZapata (p. Revolution inMexico: Years of Upheaval, 191 -194 . The rebel leader Francisco "Pancho" Villa was one of the harshestpersecutors of the soldaderas. 97-1 2. (1935). Thisperspective disregards the full truth of the soldaderas' contribution:these women not only served as vital aides to their men in time of war, butalso showed themselves to be capable and brave warriors in their own right. The Spanish soldiers used portions oftheir pay (soldada) to hire women servants, who were thus called soldaderas(p. 34). 49).In the 193 's, the status of women soldiers was further reduced when thegovernment redesignated the soldaderas "strictly as female relatives ofsoldiers" (p. Dallas:South-West Press.----------------------- 1 In fact, the common soldiers werestrongly in favor of having their female helpmates with them at all times.However, many officers on both sides of the Revolution opposed the use ofsoldaderas. In fact, the Mexican tradition of women soldiers canbe traced to ancient times, when goddesses and women warriors wereprominently featured in legends and myths (Salas, 199 , p. PanchoVilla: Intimate recollections by people who knew him. Norton andCompany. At that time, the formal function of thesoldaderas, "that of commissary and medical corps, had been to a greatextent supplanted by official services" (Turner, 1935, p. Bullets, bottles and gardenias. 166). 48). B. This story, told from themale perspective, shows the typical male viewpoint regarding the role ofthe soldaderas. Wilkie and Albert L. These brave and capable womenwere promoted to the upper ranks of the rebel armies. Women in revolutionary movements inLatin America. Thompson, Wallace. The use of soldaderas declined after 1925, when the Mexicangovernment banned all women from the army barracks (Salas, 199 , p. Despite their disagreements over the soldaderas,almost all of the men held stereotypical views regarding the role of womenin the Revolution. H. 281). Philadelphia: J. New York: Alfred A. (1986). Some of the women joined the soldiers because theywere too poor to otherwise feed themselves.
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