A warrior woman creates safety and protection in her life. When faced with adversity and injustice she doesn’t go blindly forward but gathers her resources, plans a path forward, and joins forces with others.
When the Supreme Court decision to end Roe v. Wade came down, for me it felt like an actual physical and existential blow. I grew up before Roe, a time when you could be arrested just for talking about birth control on a college campus. Over my life it felt like the battles that were fought and won would be secure for our daughters, and granddaughters. Even with all the indications, I wasn't prepared for this assault. Soon I came across this image of a woman who appears ready to fiercely protect herself. She is serious and ready to take action. In this piece I hope to honor and draw on her warrior spirit as we again face new battles to regain the most essential rights to make choices that effect our health and well-being.
Sometimes, I have wondered how my art in which women may be shown "armed" may be taken. It is paradoxical in the sense that I am a lifelong pacifist and do not support violent solutions. What I present is metaphorical, representing the emotional feelings of being unsafe and under attack. What I am presenting is our ability to fight back against a system of patriarchal colonialist oppression of all marginalized groups.
The photograph is of a real woman, Michelina Di Cesare, who lived 1841-1868 in the village of Capoli in southern Italy. She was born to a poor family during a time of political upheaval brought about by the “reunification" of northern and southern Italy. To the people of the south it was an occupation and attempt to colonize them by outsiders from the north. Many young men and some women joined the Briganti, bands who used guerilla tactics to resist. The groups hid out in the mountainous area and attacked their targets with stealth and sabotage. At age 20, Michelina felt called to be a part of the resistance and quickly earned the name Brigantessa as she became a leader and a primary tactician for the band. She was well respected by the men who followed her into combat. She remained fearless all through the campaign of fighting occupational forces until her death at the age of 27 at the hands of soldiers hunting the Briganti. As often happens in the revision of history, her role has been downplayed and the Briganti portrayed as “Outlaws” rather that political resisters. And yet through this photograph, she tells her story of heroism and determination to fight for her people and her land.
To learn more about Michelina Di Cesare and those who fought against occupation and reunification in Italy at this time: