Revolutions are seen as events that dramatically alter the economic, political, social, or even cultural structure of a target society. And this change typically occurs in a short time.
They can either be violent or peaceful, but the majority of them have been violent. In most cases, revolutions are driven by an ideology.
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While male revolutionaries have been glorified in many instances, there have been several women that led to significant rebellions. Like their male counterparts, these ladies were brave and fiercely defended causes they believed were just.
Laskarina Bouboulina was born in a Constantinople prison in May 1771, because her father had acted against the Ottoman Government. After her father died and her mother remarried, the family moved to the island of Spetses¹.
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Bouboulina was married twice, and both husbands were naval captains. And both of them happened to die during pirate raids at sea. She was left with an enormous fortune from her dead husbands. As it turned out, she was a great businesswoman and increased her fortune even further.
Over time, Bouboulina amassed a small fleet of her own through partnerships and building three other ships as well. One of her ships was a famous and huge ship called Agamemnon. It had 18 cannons and was the largest of all Greek ships that were used in the Greek War of Independence.
Bouboulina became involved in planning a Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire through a secret organization called Filiki Eteria. She used her great fortune and her ships to help claim independence for her country.
Corazon Aquino was born into a wealthy, prominent Filipino family in 1933. In the Philippines, she would lead the very first democratically elected government since the Japanese invaded their country during World War II².
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After graduating from college in 1954, Corazon Aquino married Benigno Aquino who was a politician. Benigno Aquino was an outspoken opponent of Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines dictator who had controlled the country since 1965. Benigno was arrested by police in 1972 and kept in prison for eight years, after which he was exiled to the United States. After being allowed to return home in 1983, he was promptly assassinated the instant he arrived by the government.
Ferdinand’s opposition was both enraged and empowered by this execution. Corazon Aquino took control of this opposition, even though her life was also in danger. In 1985, Marcos attempted to stage an election to legitimize his rule — which he won by a landslide.
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Both the Catholic Church and the United States Senate accused the Marcos of election fraud. Corazon Aquino called for peaceful strikes, protests, and boycotts. This was known as the People Power Revolution. In a desperate attempt to regain control, Marcos ordered his army to open fire on peaceful revolutionaries, but they refused. The dictator was later forced to flee the country, making Corazon Aquino the President of the new government.
Queen Mavia of Arabia
Mavia was the Queen of the Tanukhid Arab tribe of Jordan and Syria. She led a successful revolt against Rome in the year 378 and won. She came into power following her husband’s death because he had no heirs³.
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Although unclear, it is believed that her revolt against Rome came after the Roman Emperor Valens demanded that Mavia provide Rome with soldiers to battle the Goths. It is said that Queen Mavia was quite eager to demonstrate her competence by engaging the powerful Romans.
The engagement happened so quickly and was so conclusive that Queen Mavia was able to force Emperor Valens into a peace deal on her terms. She demanded a local monk become bishop of the region, which gave her people much more freedom. And her daughter married one of the Emperor’s prominent military officials, which gave the Queen access to the internal workings of the Roman government.
Queen Nanny of the Maroons
During the 1680s, Queen Nanny was born into slavery along the Gold Coast, which is modern-day Ghana. Nanny managed to escape from a British colony that was located in Jamaica. She then led a group of slaves up into the island’s inner mountainous regions⁴.
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Huge communities of ex-slaves began to spring up from those regions who called themselves Maroons. A community called Nanny Town was both the first and the most prominent of these regions. It was from this town that Queen Nanny led raids on local plantations to liberate the slaves there.
Nanny became the leader of the Maroon settlement. There she trained her warriors on how to engage in guerilla warfare. Nanny and her Maroons were under constant attack from the British and faced constant hunger. Despite these conditions, they remained strong and united under her leadership.
On November 20, 1910, the Mexican Revolution started and continued through the 1920s. Revolutionaries were attempting to overthrow Dictator Porfirio Diaz Mori and establish a constitution that would bring a better life for farming classes. This turned out to be a bloody conflict as some 900,000 died⁵.
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One revolutionary army that had over 5300 soldiers included 1,256 women and even 554 children. While the children usually cooked and foraged, the women took part in the battles alongside the men. Even in the fact of constant sexism and inequality, these brave women risked their lives to ensure the downfall of Mori.
The most notorious of these women fighters was a lady named Margarita Neri. She not only fought as a soldier in this war, but she was also a commander. In 1910, her army of over 1000 soldiers invaded Chiapas and Tabasco and began burning, looting, and killing.
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Neri’s marauders became so frightening that men either hid or fled whenever they heard she was approaching their town. It is not clear if her unit operated independently or under revolutionary commanders. Either way, her army was a lethal threat to the existing Government, and Neri vowed to decapitate the dictator herself.
: Greeka. Spetses Laskarina Bouboulina. https://www.greeka.com/saronic/spetses/history/bouboulina/
: Britannica. Corazon Aquino President of Philippines. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Corazon-Aquino
: Joshua J. Mark. (March 12, 2018). Mavia. https://www.ancient.eu/Mavia/
: Deborah Gabriel. (2004). Jamaica’s True Queen: Nanny of the Maroons. https://jamaicans.com/queennanny/
: Derwombat. Margarita Neri, Revolutionary. https://derwombat.net/2018/05/03/margarita-neri/