Women and Guerrilla Movements

Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas, Cuba

By (author) Karen Kampwirth

Paperback - £27.95

Publication date:

15 June 2003

Length of book:

208 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271022512

The revolutionary movements that emerged frequently in Latin America over the past century promoted goals that included overturning dictatorships, confronting economic inequalities, and creating what Cuban revolutionary hero Che Guevara called the "new man." But, in fact, many of the "new men" who participated in these movements were not men. Thousands of them were women. This book aims to show why a full understanding of revolutions needs to take account of gender.

Karen Kampwirth writes here about the women who joined the revolutionary movements in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and the Mexican state of Chiapas, about how they became guerrillas, and how that experience changed their lives. In the last chapter she compares what happened in these countries with Cuba in the 1950s, where few women participated in the guerrilla struggle.

Drawing on more than two hundred interviews, Kampwirth examines the political, structural, ideological, and personal factors that allowed many women to escape from the constraints of their traditional roles and led some to participate in guerrilla activities. Her emphasis on the experiences of revolutionaries adds a new dimension to the study of revolution, which has focused mainly on explaining how states are overthrown.

“This is an intelligent and well-researched book—essential reading for helping academics and practitioners think through the complexities of women’s lives during and after revolutions. Kampwirth’s book will chart a new course for us to study women as individuals, not just as a group, with regard to political and social revolutions. A book that superbly captures the real lives of women revolutionaries—without over-romanticizing the revolutions or the roles of women.”

—Tracy Fitzsimmons, Shenandoah University