Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Lisa Cody

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Rights Information

© 2014 Lynsey Chediak


While many politicians gain national or international acclaim, domestic political activists are rarely remembered for their dedication and, similarly, their sufferings. More specifically, the acts of female political activists, and the harsh punishments they endure following government pushback, are not appreciated or acknowledged by popular histories.

Across Great Britain, the United States, and Argentina, three women played crucial roles in advancing reform against unjust government policies. Josephine Butler (1828-1906) was a pivotal character in repealing laws allowing for the government regulation of prostitution, the Contagious Diseases Acts, in Great Britain. Similarly, Alice Paul (1885-1997) was essential in achieving the ratification of the Nineteenth Constitutional Amendment in the United States—granting universal suffrage. Lastly, Azucena Villaflor (1924-1977) was one of the first people, man or woman, to openly oppose the Junta dictatorship in Argentina and openly advocate for the release of information on desaparecidos.

Despite advancing such important policy reform, all three women increasingly faced physical suffering, torture or death at the hands of their respective state governments. Amid a lack of media coverage or biased, partial media coverage paired with the direct confrontation of male government leaders, noncombatant activists were unjustly treated in violation of their fundamental human rights.

Progressive, forceful voices for positive change are consistently dismissed as crazy, extreme or irrational, rather than praised for their efforts. In exploring the cycle of violence surrounding the treatment of political activists, it appears nationalist histories are often void of past government faults.