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Women revolutionists

Mexican Revolution; group of women and children wearing cartridge belts and pointing rifles

1911
Photograph
Library of Congress

Women Revolutionists [Mexican Revolution; group of women and children wearing cartridge belts and pointing rifles], Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Department, Lot 9563-14, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2018661474/.

Women played a very important role in the revolution. Some women (and their children) followed their men into the revolutionary armies. As women had done for centuries, they cooked, mended, washed clothes for soldiers, and nursed the wounded. However, many more of them actually fought than in other wars. Soldaderas, as female soldiers were commonly known, on occasion reached the rank of colonel (coronelas) and contributed both military might and brains to the war effort. As the revolution continued, civilian life in the Mexican countryside became very difficult because of roving armies, bandits, and lack of food. What perspective do you think the soldaderas in this photograph had on the revolution and on what needed to change in Mexico?

Although many soldaderas were unmarried and without children, making them more able to move around the country freely, they came from a variety of backgrounds and political views and were both rich and poor, light-skinned and dark. Some fought by choice, and some were coerced into service at gunpoint or by other threats. Although they came from different social groups and joined different armies for different reasons, these women probably shared the perspective that they wanted more opportunities for women to participate in politics and society. They wanted to be taken seriously. Although most soldaderas appear in long skirts with weapon belts and rifles, some soldaderas dressed as men to fight and lead troops. One famous soldadera, Amelio Robles (born Amelia), went through a gender transition and lived the rest of her life as a man. Amelio wore large peasant shirts with chest pockets and adopted male mannerisms. After the war, the support of his former comrades-in-arms helped him survive in his pioneering trans role.

Women Revolutionists