Saturday, November 26

Eight feminist references that you may not yet know


This relay race could have started in Italy in 1364. That year Christine de Pizan was born. pizan wrote the city of ladies, precursor work of western feminism. Centuries later, and being aware that in the meantime the witness had to grab and let go hundreds of times, Sjourner Truth appeared and his famous speech Am I not a woman?, which would lay the foundations for the feminist struggle of black women. Then came Clara Zetkin, Nawal el Saadawi, Marcela Lagarde and Rebeca Lane, among many others. As it would be impossible to summarize this test of effort in a single article, we propose the history of eight global feminist leaders that you may not yet know. The race picks up around the world just down the stretch.

What to expect from 8M: calls and demands crossed by the gap in feminism

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Christine dePizan. Italy, 1364

In 1405 Christine Pizan wrote the city of ladies, a work with which the author makes a defense of women building their own city and inhabiting it with important female figures. The text combats the misogynistic arguments of the authors of her time. Among the topics that Pizan dealt with in her manuscript, the defense of women against all kinds of slander, education for women and liberation stand out.

“I was wondering what could be the reasons that lead so many men, clergy and laity, to vituperate women, criticizing them either verbally or in writings and treatises. It’s not that it’s a one or two man thing, it’s not even about that Mateolo [en referencia al libro de Las lamentaciones de Mateolo, que trata sobre el matrimonio]which will never enjoy consideration because his booklet does not go beyond mockery, but there is no text that is exempt from misogyny […] They seem to speak with the same voice to reach the conclusion that women, evil by essence and nature, always lean towards vice.

The work was transcendental in the well-known ‘Women’s Complaint’, a literary and academic debate that lasted several centuries in medieval Europe until the French Revolution. The debate is mainly based on the defense of intellectual capacity, the right of women to access university and politics against the dominant misogyny.



Sojourner Truth. USA, 1791

Am I not a woman? is the name of Sojourner Truth’s most famous speech, delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Woman’s Rights Convention and considered the starting point of feminism for black women in the United States. Truth was born a slave in late 18th century New York. As a nine-year-old girl, she was sold along with a flock of sheep for $100. And this wasn’t the only time she was sold.

“That man over there says that women need help getting on floats and getting around ditches and getting better seats everywhere. Nobody has ever helped me get on the floats or jump a mud puddle or offered me the best seat. Am I not a woman?

Married with three children, when she was close to thirty she decided to escape and, in her flight, she could only take her little daughter, who was still a baby. To get custody of another of her children, who had been illegally sold, she went to court and won. She was the first black woman to win a lawsuit against a white man.

Truth became a great speaker. She participated in hundreds of acts in favor of equality and civil rights, many times between shouts and insults. Years later, in 1864, she came to meet Abraham Lincoln. Almost 2,000 people attended her funeral.



Clara Zetkin. Germany, 1857

That on March 8 we celebrate International Women’s Day was his initiative. In 1910, the Socialist Women’s International decided at her proposal to reserve that date for working women. Zetkin is one of the essential names to understand feminism from a purely political point of view. Zetkin was a teacher, activist, and politician, and she is considered the first leader to combine feminist and socialist ideas.

As soon as he finished his studies, he decided to dedicate his life to politics and the labor movement. The German defended that, if the socialist movement managed to bring down the capitalist system, equality would be achieved. For several decades, Ella Zetkin was the editor of a newspaper called Equality.

In one of his speeches on the liberation of women, Zetkin argues that such liberation passes through their economic development. For women to be free human beings, she continues, a revolution in their role in economic life is needed.

When Hitler came to power, Clara Zetkin went into exile in Russia. She died in Moscow at the age of 75.


Mary Tel. Spain, 1915

She is the Spanish equality lawyer par excellence. María Telo promoted during the Franco regime a reform of the Civil Code that ended the obedience of wives and marital license, which made her husband assume command and family leadership after a marriage. This happened not so long ago, exactly in 1975.

Telo was born in Cáceres and died in Madrid, at the age of 98. With many obstacles and reluctance, at the age of 16 he began his law degree in Salamanca and this is what he tells in his book My fight for legal equality for women:

“After entering the university, my life was no longer the same. Knowing so directly the legal situation of women within the Civil Code, I felt so humiliated, so unfairly treated, so vilified, so nothing, that no historical, legal, religious, or human explanation could convince me that I was exaggerating. ”.

In 1944 he approved the opposition for the Technical Corps of Civil Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture and, a few years later, he opened a law firm specializing in family law. In 1971 she created the Spanish Association of Women Jurists, whose objective was the study of Law that directly affected women and the family. Within the association, the promotion of women in the world of Law was also discussed.



Nawal al-Saadawi. Egypt, 1931

Write above everything. Neither exile nor imprisonment could put an end to one of the most relevant voices of feminism in recent years. Nawal al Saadawi was born in Egypt in 1931 into a wealthy family and already at school she began to write her first feminist texts, in which she denounced the clear discrimination between male and female students. She wrote from the age of 13 until the day she died.

In the 1950s she graduated in Medicine and was a rural doctor. At that stage, she was able to witness the great suffering experienced by girls who, like her, had suffered female genital mutilation. In the year 1972 she published her first book, women and sex, in which he denounced precisely this practice. The work was censored in Egypt and led to her dismissal as Director General of Public Health of the Egyptian Government.

In the early 1980s she was jailed for criticizing the government of her country and the capitalist system, and in the 1990s she had to go into exile. Nawal al-Saadawi died last year..



Wangari Maathai. Kenya, 1940

She was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and this happened in 2004. Maathai won this award for her contribution to democracy and peace with her sustainable development plans and for her fight for the integration of women in the society. When she died in 2011, she was Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources in the Government of Kenya.

These were his first words after receiving the Nobel: “As the first African woman to receive this award, I accept it on behalf of the people of Kenya and Africa and indeed the world. I have a special regard for women and girls. I hope it encourages you to speak up now.” occupy a greater space of leadership”.

Known as the tree woman, Maathai and her Green Belt Movement symbolize the so-called African ecofeminism, whose objective was to combat the effects of climate change and desertification and guarantee the economy of developing countries and work for women. When she died, through this action more than 47 million trees had been planted by thousands of women who were part of the project.

Maathai was the first African woman to obtain a doctorate and, from the Association of University Women, she fought to end the salary gap and to promote equality between women and men in the world of teaching.


Marcela Lagard. Mexico, 1948

She is one of the great references of feminism in Latin America and has been the forerunner of the law against sexist violence in her country. Anthropologist, politician and researcher, Lagarde coined the term ‘feminicide’, the murder of women for the sole fact of being women in patriarchal societies.

Between 2003 and 2006 she was an independent deputy in the Mexican Congress and, during that legislature, she launched the General Law of Access for Women to a Life Free of Violence. The crime of femicide was typified as a result of the murders in Ciudad Juárez.

This he said in an interview The country in 2016: “This case became very mediatic and there was enormous solidarity that allowed us to take it to Parliament. For the first time in the history of our country I got a special budget to investigate and discovered what it supposed as a hypothesis: that this violence It didn’t just happen in that city; only in the State of Chihuahua did we discover at least 10 red flags more important than Juárez. What was exceptional about Juárez were the complaints that it was happening and the demand for justice.”


Rebecca Lane. Guatemala, 1984

Poet, singer and feminist reference in Latin America. She studied Sociology at the School of Political Science of the University of San Carlos de Guatemala and part of her academic work has consisted of delving into the concept of women’s liberation – like Pizan in the fifteenth century. She is one of the most active voices on the other side of the pond for her defense of feminism, the LGTBI collective and Historical Memory.

As a rap singer, his combative lyrics stand out, denouncing, among other things, sexist violence and, specifically, femicides. In her country, according to official figures, every 18 hours a femicide is registered. Lane is the founder of ‘Somos Guerreras’, an initiative that seeks to make visible the work of Central American women in the world of hip hop by creating spaces for training and event production.

‘We want each other alive’ is the name of one of her latest songs: “We want each other alive. Another femicide in the news. We want each other alive. We will not give peace until there is justice. Where others planted seeds today flowers have grown. I have a garden in the chest where I cultivate all my loves”.



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