When first looking at the role and function of the Soldaderas in the Mexican Revolution, it first must be established why these women chose to assist their respective militaries. For the federal army under President Victoriano Huerta, the male soldiers were forced to enlist and go fight for the leader in power. With the men not having a choice but to go fight against the rebels, many of the women were faced with having their husbands leave them for a long period of time. For these women, many of whom were mothers, they preferred to keep the family together and accompany their husbands to war rather than be forced to stay at home unprotected in the middle of a tumultuous revolution. While many view Soldaderas’ decision to accompany their husbands as the choice of the woman, some historians argue that the men did in fact force their wives to accompany them to battle. They were seen as either companions to the soldiers or as enslaved camp followers. They state that the, “Loyalty of the soldiers wife is more akin to that of a dog to its master than to that of an intelligent women to her mate.” (1)
While many Soldaderas and their husband’s decisions to accompany them were made voluntarily within the family, by 1913, President Huerta began drafting females and thus forcing them to make contributions to the federal army. They were placed in charge of tasks like working in the state controlled power mills, or serving as chefs to the troops. (2) The forced military labor that the Soldaderas were subjected to was acknowledge and denounced on an international level, as a member of the American Press described the role of Soldaderas: “[Huerta] not content with the wholesale impressments among men to fill the depleted ranks of the federal columns, women by the hundreds [were] seized by Huertas orders and forced to abandon their homes.” (3)
However, there were also some Soldaderas, unattached and not forced to work for the federal army, who simply chose to fought, mostly in defiance of President Huerta. (4)
Soldaderas vs. Female Soldiers
While the literal translation of Soldaderas may mean “soldier”, the group of women that are identified as Soldaderas were in fact not soldiers, where as actual combat fighting female soldiers did exist. Those females who fought in combat are not the same as Soldaderas, Female soldiers were generally of a higher class because they could afford horses to ride and fight on. Most male soldiers did not want to “waste” a horse on a female, and thus Soldaderas, members of the poor, working class, did not have the opportunity or means to actually fight in combat. (5) Female soldiers were also recognized members of the military, who could advance their position in the army. (6) On the other hand, Soldaderas functioned as invaluable assistance to the male soldiers for the everyday needs of the soldiers.