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310 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, notes, bibl., index

Envisioning Cuba

ISBN  978-1-4696-2500-3
Published: November 2015

Revolution within the Revolution

Women and Gender Politics in Cuba, 1952-1962

By Michelle Chase

A handful of celebrated photographs show armed female Cuban insurgents alongside their compañeros in Cuba's remote mountains during the revolutionary struggle. However, the story of women's part in the struggle's success has only now received comprehensive consideration in Michelle Chase's history of women and gender politics in revolutionary Cuba. Restoring to history women's participation in the all-important urban insurrection, and resisting Fidel Castro's triumphant claim that women's emancipation was handed to them as a "revolution within the revolution," Chase's work demonstrates that women's activism and leadership was critical at every stage of the revolutionary process.

Tracing changes in political attitudes alongside evolving gender ideologies in the years leading up to the revolution, Chase describes how insurrectionists mobilized familiar gendered notions, such as masculine honor and maternal sacrifice, in ways that strengthened the coalition against Fulgencio Batista. But, after 1959, the mobilization of women and the societal transformations that brought more women and young people into the political process opened the revolutionary platform to increasingly urgent demands for women's rights. In many cases, Chase shows, the revolutionary government was simply formalizing popular initiatives already in motion on the ground thanks to women with a more radical vision of their rights.

About the Author

Michelle Chase is assistant professor of history at Pace University.


“Chase’s nuanced analysis of the centrality of gender politics to revolutionary struggle merits praise for opening up a promising new direction in the study of the Cuban Revolution, and for reinvigorating dialogue about the Revolution’s social legacy in this momentous time in US-Cuban relations.”

“From a perspective of gender, which recovers forgotten voices, the autor offers a novel interpretation of both the origins of the revolution and the revolution’s first few years.”
--Alfonso Salgado, Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos

“[A]n altogether excellent, informative, and essential book: an opening salvo in a conversation that, as Chase convincingly demonstrates, was long overdue.”
--Jennifer Lambe, Assistant Professor of History, Brown University, NACLA

“A work that should attract not only historians of the Cuban Revolution but anyone interested in gender and the history of women in Latin America.”
--Alfonso Salgado, Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos

“It seems almost impossible that we have had to wait this long for a thoughtful study of women and gender in Cuba’s revolutionary process. Luckily, we now have Michelle Chase’s Revolution within the Revolution, an insightful contribution to a growing literature on the history of gender and sexuality in Cuba, as well as a blossoming historiography on the Cuban 1960s.”
--Jennifer Lambe, Assistant Professor of History, Brown University, from review published in NACLA

"Michelle Chase challenges both official and anti-Castro accounts of women's roles during the critical periods of anti-Batista activism, the armed stage of the Cuban Revolution, and the consolidation of the Castro regime, demonstrating how both gender ideologies and women's activism pushed the revolutionary movement in new directions. Chase argues convincingly that women activists led--rather than followed--many of the revolutionary government's most important policy changes."
--Jocelyn Olcott, Duke University

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