By Gabriel Carlyle
Black women’s movement and civil rights activist Olive Morris – who became a symbol of the squatting movement in ’70s Brixton – is one of 30 women profiled and ‘icon-brush[ed] … with Che Guevara glam’ in the Queen of the Neighbourhood Collective’s book of stencil designs, Revolutionary Women, inspired by the question ‘Who and where are our revolutionary women icons?’ Others featured include Egyptian feminist Doria Shafik, who led the 1951 storming of the Egyptian parliament by 1,500 women, and Dutch resistance fighter Hanni Schaft, the only woman out of 422 resistance fighters whose bodies were recovered from dunes near Overveen after the war. (Her last words to her executioners, as the first bullet only grazed her, were ‘I shoot better than you!’)
Moving stories abound. Nonetheless, as the authors make clear, there is an important distinction between icon and heroine, and not all of those featured are held up for our admiration – a crucial fact that is probably lost if the images are used as intended. Though a small number of those featured were committed to exclusively nonviolent means, many more were engaged in armed resistance, leading this reader to ponder ‘Who and where are our female icons of revolutionary nonviolence?’ Another book beckons perhaps….