Feminine Brigades of St. Joan of Arc
The Feminine Brigades of Saint Joan of Arc (Spanish: Las Brigadas Femeninas de Santa Juana de Arco) also known as Guerrilleras de Cristo or (women-soldiers of Christ) is a secret military society for women founded by Mrs. Uribe (also known as Mrs. G. Richaud) on the 21st of June 1927, in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico.
Formed as a secret Catholic women's society that organized to support the Mexican Cristero War effort, they were affiliated with Unión Popular. Initial membership consisted of only 17 women, but quickly grew to 135 women members within a matter of days. At its height the brigade was composed of 56 squadrons, totaling 25,000 women militants, most active in Jalisco, Guadalajara and Mexico City.
Recruitment, Vows and Duties
Recruitment began in Catholic women's colleges, but quickly spread to among the indigenous population and across all social classes. Each member was to take vows of faith and absolute secrecy. The primary function was the securing of funds, food, information, shelter, and the nursing of the wounded Cristero rebels. Though as the group increased, so did their duties to the extent that they were often in the field of battle.
Complex Logistics Network
They operated in squadrons to "ammunitions in various ways, including manufacturing it themselves and distributing it through a complex network of supply routes" The Feminine Brigades, considered to be very independent, nonetheless credited by field commanders as a major reason "for the rebellion's success in sustaining itself". Enrique Gorostieta y Valarde, the leader of the National Defense League for Religious Liberty (Liga Nacional Defensora de la Libertad Religiosa - LNDLR), the main coordinating Cristero group, had to smooth out relations with the Feminine Brigades. By 1928 the Brigades had grown in numbers and efficiency and had become an important part of the Cristero effort. The Brigades at this point obeyed the LNDLR leadership only occasionally. The feud between the Brigades and the LNDLR resulted in a "serious decrease in the flow of ammunition." Eventually, the friction was resolved and the Brigades increased the supply of ammunition to the field of soldiers. With the decline of the rebellion and demobilization, the Feminine Brigades dissolved.
The extensive logistics network run by the Feminine Brigades of St. Joan of Arc, a Catholic women’s organization. These women devised creative and clandestine ways to keep soldiers supplied: special vests for smuggling ammunition out of federal factories and secret workshops for the production of homemade explosives, such as grenades made out of jelly tins. These courageous twenty-five thousand ladies also carried messages—written on silk and hidden within the soles of shoes—between units. All of their activities were carried out under an oath of secrecy. No evidence indicates that the oath was ever broken. The heroic efforts of the Joan of Arc Brigades notwithstanding, the Cristero army never had enough ammunition to win a decisive victory. Too often, in the heat of battle; they had to disengage so as to live to fight another day.
- Salas, Elizabeth. Soldaderas in the Mexican Military: Myth and History, University of Texas Press 2001.
- Check, Christopher. "The Cristeros and the Mexican Martyrs", "This Rock", September 2007, accessed May 21, 2011, p. 16. Link no longer exists, Nov. 30, 2014
- Saint Joan of Arc
- The Cristero War
- Mexican Revolution
- National Action Party (Mexico)
- List of wars involving Mexico