By David Ellison
Hermila Galindo seemed like the reincarnation of either Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, or Susan B. Anthony, Janet Rankin, and Margaret Sanger all rolled into one. By any standard, she was an amazing woman.
At the age of only 15, she moved to Mexico City, joined a liberal political club, and gave the speech welcoming the triumphant Venustiano Carranza to the city. She believed he would save the country. (He agreed.) She so impressed him that he made her his private secretary and eventually even his official representative to both Cuba and Columbia. She ended up writing Carranza’s biography and at least five other books that praised him, at least indirectly. In the end, though, as with most everyone else, she became disillusioned with him.
It was with her life-long campaign to secure women’s rights that Galindo shone in her own right. Also at 15, she published a groundbreaking, controversial magazine, The Modern Woman, in which she wrote, “[A wife] has no rights in her home,” she complained. “She is excluded from participating in any public matter and lacks the legal personality to enter into any contract. She cannot dispose of her personal belongings, or even manage them, and she is legally disqualified from defending herself against mismanagement of her estate by her husband, even when using her fund for purposes that are most ignoble and offensive to her. She has no authority over her children and she has no right to intervene in their education . . . . She must, as a widow, consult the persons designated by her husband before his death, otherwise she may lose her rights over them.”
The following year Galindo crafted a document for the First Mexican Feminist Congress entitled “Women in the Future.” It brought down the house with its radical notions that women needed to free themselves from church oppression, and that they deserved complete equality with men, including secular education as well as sex education. It criticized both male hypocrisy and machismo (today known as “toxic masculinity”). Most women were scandalized.
Undeterred, Galindo introduced a proposal for the new Constitución of 1917 calling for women’s suffrage. When it was rejected, she simply ran illegally for congress herself, becoming the first Mexican woman to both run for and win a national election, although the electoral college overruled the results.
Galindo married soon thereafter and disappeared from public life. But she reemerged in 1952 to run again for congress—this time legally—and became the first-ever congresswoman in Mexico. The next year she was instrumental in pushing through an amendment to the constitution which finally allowed Mexican women to vote. She died a year later—after an exemplary life of vision, passion, determination, courage, and service.
Mexico finally honored Galindo by placing her visage on the new 1,000-peso bill.
This is a selection from Dave’s upcoming book, Niños Héroes: The Fascinating Stories Behind Mexican Street Names.
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