A Woman to Know: Leona Vicario

My actions and opinions have always been extremely free. — Leona Vicario

(image via Wikimedia)

After Leona's well-to-do parents died in the early 1800s, she put her inheritance and social connections to immediate use: funding the independence movement in her native Mexico City. As a member of Los Guadalupes, a secret society of rebel informants, Leona collected intel from high-society parties and passed intelligence on to the fighters. She channeled money from her many bank accounts to pay for ammunition, rescues and more.

But Leona wasn't only a socialite operating behind a mansion gate; she also aided the movement as a well-sourced journalist. She partnered with her husband, Andrés Quintana Roo, to get her reporting to Los Guadalupes and other rebel groups. They used Andrés's family's printing presses to distribute political pamphlets and independence literature.

But in 1817, government forces traced the materials back to Leona. The Spanish imprisoned her in a convent prison, where she stayed for months of questioning. Eventually, three rebels disguised themselves as Spanish officers and arranged for her escape. When she safely returned to Mexico City, Leona picked up her independence work. When she and her husband were again captured four years later, they negotiated for amnesty.

After Mexico won its independence, the government awarded Leona a new estate in Mexico City, as repayment for her work for the movement. When she passed away in 1842, the new Mexican government posthumously honored her with a lavish funeral, even awarding her the prestigious title of "Distinguished and Beloved Mother of the Homeland."

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