Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 30 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 3/31/22

Women Who Change the World: La Pasionarias Past and Present

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   6 comments
Message Elayne Clift
Become a Fan
  (14 fans)

Sojourner Truth%2C 1870 %28cropped%2C restored%29.
Sojourner Truth%2C 1870 %28cropped%2C restored%29.
(Image by Wikipedia (, Author: Author Not Given)
  Details   Source   DMCA

Throughout history women have left their mark on the world in numerous, and often unknown, unrecognized, or forgotten ways. What better time to honor some of them than Women's History Month, especially the "pasionarias."

La Pasionaria, a term that has come to encompass powerful, activist women whether by word or deed, derives from a Communist leader in the Spanish Civil War, named Dolores Ibarruru. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, she became known as La Pasionaria - "The Passionflower" in Spanish - because of her brilliant oratory and her war cry, "No pasaran!" (They shall not pass!) Her oratory led to her imprisonment several times, but she never stopped talking on street corners and other venues. When Franco became Spain's dictator, she fled to the Soviet Union where she represented her party at Kremlin congresses until 1960, returning to Spain in 1977, where she served in the Spanish parliament until her death in 1989.

Not all pasionarias are as forceful in their rhetoric as Ibarruru, but she is matched by one of my favorites -- Sojourner Truth, who knocked the socks off the white men who heard her fiery speech, "Ain't I A Woman?" at the 1851 Women's Convention in Ohio ..That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere," the petite, illiterate truthteller before them said. "Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? ".Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? " From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him From her slave roots to the White House at the invitation of Abraham Lincoln, the itinerant preacher never stopped advocating for abolition, civil and women's rights.

Some women exercise their power by speaking publicly, but others use words in other irreversible ways. One of them was Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote the pioneering work, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in 1792. In her groundbreaking treatise she argued for women's right to education, surpassing other pleas on the same topic by calling for national education systems. While her ideas languished in her own time, by the middle of the 19th century her impact was being felt by women's rights leaders, including Emmaline Pankhurst in England and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her colleagues in America, who included numerous rights for women in their demands.

(Image by Wikipedia (, Author: Author Not Given)
  Details   Source   DMCA

Women who entered the realm of politics were often pasionarias. One of them was Jeannette Rankin, the first woman member of the U.S. Congress, a Republican representing Montana from 1917 to 1919, and again from 1941 to 1943, thus serving during both WWI and WWII. A social worker by training, she campaigned for women's suffrage for years before gaining the right for women to vote in Montana. An outspoken pacificist, she voted against war with Germany in 1917 and again in 1941, ending her political career, but she continued advocating for social reform and peace. "If I had my life to live over again," she once said, "I'd do it all again, but this time I would be nastier."

Jeannette Rankin%2C Bain News Service%2C facing front.
Jeannette Rankin%2C Bain News Service%2C facing front.
(Image by Wikipedia (, Author: Bain News Service, restored by Adam Cuerden)
  Details   Source   DMCA

Many lesser-known women have had major political, literary, and rhetorical impact. I was privileged to know some of them when I worked in Washington, DC on behalf of women. There was Mildred Marcy, who wrote the sentence that became known as the Percy Amendment, so that women became equal beneficiaries in U.S. foreign assistance programs. Virginia Allen saw to it that every state had a Commission for Women. Others quietly effected change behind the scenes.

Among that generation of outstanding women who helped create a constituency for the life-changing women's movement was Esther Peterson with whom I had a special friendship. She worked on behalf of women from the days of FDR to the Carter and Clinton administrations. The first woman lobbyist for the AFL-CIO, she was assigned to lobby a young legislator named John F. Kennedy, Jr. They became fast friends. When JFK became president, he asked Esther what she would like to do in government, That's how she became head of the Women's Bureau at the Labor Department where she was recognized for her quiet, highly effective leadership.

Many women throughout history from all countries, cultures, and walks of life have been, and are, worthy of being called pasionarias. From the Roman Hortensia who was renowned as a skilled orator, and Aspasia of Greece, who held influential salons attended by Socrates, to today's Emma Gonzales, whose oratory after the Parkland school shootings stunned a nation, to Greta Thunberg, who as a teenager shocked United Nations representatives with her condemnation of climate change cliches, and Malala Yousafzai, who, like Mary Wollstonecraft, became an influential leader advocating for girls' education, the tradition of women's wise and powerful words, whether written or spoken, goes on.

As Dolores Ibarruru and all the others who have gone before us might have said, "Brava, Pasionarias, Gracias, and Abrazos! We commend you, and we are ever grateful."

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Elayne Clift Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Elayne Clift is a writer,lecturer, workshop leader and activist. She is senior correspondent for Women's Feature Service, columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel and Brattleboro (VT) Commons and a contributor to various publications internationally. (more...)
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

What Happens When "Jane" Comes Marching Home Again?

Is America Really as Safe a Place to Live as You Thought?

Orifice Politics; What the War on Women is Really About

Why Are We Sexualizing Young Girls?

Beauty and the Beast: The Ugly Attacks on Activist Women

DSM-5 Could Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend