- Women and the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920
Women played a significant but, until recently, largely overlooked role in the complex and destructive civil war known as the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920.1 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.2 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.
There were many precedents for the active involvement of women in the armed struggle of 1910-1920. Mexican writers interested in the role of the female in the epic Revolution have accentuated the fact that [End Page 53] women had given aid and comfort and had also, when necessary, fought alongside their men in all the wars the country had previously experienced. This included the independence movement of 1810-1820, the North American invasion of 1846-1848, and the Reform War and the French Intervention of 1857-1867.3 However, the educational and vocational opportunities offered to and accepted with such alacrity by females from 1876 to 1910 added a new dimension to their participation in their country's crisis: an intellectual one. Three persons who best exemplify the intellectual contributions of women to the Mexican Revolution are the journalist Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza (1875-1942), the school teacher Dolores Jiménez y Muro (1848-1925), and the feminist private secretary of President Carranza, Hermila Galindo de Topete (1896-1954).
The journalist, poet, and political radical Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza was born in 1875 in Durango of an Indian mother and a mestizo father who worked at such varied jobs as blacksmith, horse tamer, and farm worker.4 Trained as a typographer, in 1901 Juana joined the Precursors or early critics of Don Porfirio who called for an anti-capitalist revolution by Mexico's peasants and workers against the Diaz regime.5 Angered by the foreign domination of Mexico's banks, insurance companies, mines, textile mills and railroads, aroused by the increasing impoverishment, exploitation, and debasement of the country's landless peasants and workers, and disturbed by the resurgence of the Catholic Church in Mexico, in May of 1901 Juana established an anti-Diaz newspaper, Vesper, in the extremely traditionalist provincial capital of Guanajuato.6
Fearless, combative, and an uncompromising- foe of social injustice, [End Page 54] political tyranny, and religious obscurantism, in her little newspaper Juana Gutiérrez passionately defended the wretchedly treated miners of Guanajuato. She attacked, with equal vehemence, the clergy of one of the most religiously conservative states in all of Mexico.7 Contradicting the stereotypes of timidity and religiosity ascribed to Mexican women, and attacking head-on the reactionary milieu of Guanajuato, Señora Gutiérrez early developed an inimitable style which led the Anarchist journalist and editor of Regeneración, Ricardo Flores Magón, to hail her newspaper as "virile."8 A later admirer, Santiago R. de la Vega, stated that, like the Spanish feminist novelist Emilia Pardo Bazán, Juana Gutiérrez had "trousers in [her] style."9
A few copies of Vesper and other newspapers which Juana edited from 1901 to 1941 survive in the Hemeroteca Nacional (Newspaper Archives) in Mexico City, and all of them attest to the refreshing candor, incisiveness and vigor of her writing. She castigated Diaz for failing to carry out his obligations as leader of the Mexican people, but pointed out to her readers that they and all Mexican citizens had also failed to exercise their rights.10 While millions of supposedly enfranchised Mexican men silently endured the abuses of the Diaz regime, Juana Gutiérrez protested against...