(Author of The Book of Awesome Women) Becca Anderson honors Dolores Ibárruri, this force of nature who fought in the Spanish Civil War.
The shero of the Spanish Civil War, Dolores Ibarruri was born in 1895 to a Basque miner. She worked as a servant until she joined the Partido Socialista and began writing incendiary political diatribes under the pseudonym, La Pasionaria: “The Passion Flower.” She and her husband Julian Ruiz helped found the first Communist parties in Spain in 1920. The mother of six children with Ruiz, Ibarruri didn’t let motherhood slow her down; not only did she continue writing for the El Mundo Obrero workers’ newspaper, in 1934, she organized a women’s group called Agrupacion de Mujereres Antifascistas.
Noted for her keen political mind, fearlessness, and charisma, Ibarruri was elected to Parliament in 1936 and was freed from a stint in jail so that she could serve. She began making speeches on behalf of the Popular Front Government, rousing audiences with her impassioned pleas to halt the tide of Fascism. When full-scale civil war broke out in Spain, La Pasionaria exhorted her fellow loyalists to remain steadfast with cries of “No Pasaran!” (They shall not pass!) When Franco grabbed the power seat, she left the Spain she had fought for to live in the USSR. During the mass exodus of Communists from Spain, the great Spanish matriarch met photographer Tina Modotti. Modotti was so trusted by the exiled Spaniards, she was one of two people guarding Ibarruri’s hospital room when she fell ill with a bad case of hepatitis.
In Soviet Russia, Ibarruri served as a Secretary-General of the Spanish Communist Party from 1942 until she assumed the presidency in 1960, a post she held until 1977. When Franco died later that year, La Pasionaria moved back home to Spain, and in Spain’s first elections in forty years, was reelected to Parliament. She was eighty-one years old, fierce as ever, and accorded a shero’s welcome back to the country that lionized her. La Pasionaria, whose career was based on dedication to her crusade for freedom, received much recognition for her incredible courage and self-sacrifice; she won the Lenin Peace Prize and was named honorary vice president of the International Democratic Federation of Women. She will always be remembered for her valor in the face of great danger and for her belief that, “It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees!”
Boundary Breakers, Freedom Fighters, Sheroes & Female Firsts
Super women as female role models. From the foremothers who blazed trails and broke barriers, to today’s women warriors from sports, science, cyberspace, city hall, the lecture hall, and the silver screen, The Book of Awesome Women paints 200 portraits of powerful and inspiring role models for women and girls poised to become super women of the future. Discover some of the most awesome women known to history while celebrating the greatness of females all over!