Filipina Resistance against Imperialism

The speech of a Filipina activist who fought against American imperialism.

Clemencia López

Portrait of Clemencia Lopez, 1904. Hathi Trust.

Document Text


I believe that we are both striving for much the same object — you for the right to take part in national life; we for the right to have a national life to take part in. And I am sure that, if we understood each other better, the differences which now exist between your country and mine would soon disappear.


I believe that we both want to participate in politics. If we understand each other, we will see that we are very similar.
But perhaps it will be more interesting to you if I tell you something about the Philippine women at the present time. I know that the Philippine women are not as highly educated as the majority of American women — they have never had the same opportunities — but they are in general very devoted to their families. A mother, there as here, is willing to make every sacrifice for her children; she will deprive herself of luxury, of pleasures, even of necessities in order to give them a good education and assure their well-being. The wife is very faithful to her husband, and assists him in every way. If he is rich she assists in the management of the business, acting as cashier and bookkeeper; so that in case her husband dies she is able to carry on the business successfully. Among the poorer rural classes the wife helps in the lighter agricultural work, assisting to harvest the rice, corn and other grains. American women are more educated than Philippine women. Women in the Philippines are devoted to their families and are faithful to their husbands.
But whatever her station, she always unites her fate to that of her husband, even in danger and misfortune; and even though her marriage be not a happy one, she never abandons him. So true is this that both in the war with Spain and in the war with America many soldiers’ wives followed their husbands to the field, traversing mountains and forests and facing every danger that they might not be separated from their husbands, but might prepare their food and care for them if ill or wounded. 


Philippine women always remain loyal to their husbands, even following them into war to care for them.
Before closing, I should like to say a word about the patriotism of the women. This is a delicate subject, for to be patriotic in our country means that we must oppose the policy of yours. But patriotism is a quality which we all ought to be able to admire, even in an opponent. I should indeed have reason to be ashamed if I had to come before this association with the admission that our women were indifferent to the cause of their country’s independence. You would have a right to despise me and my countrywomen if we had so little love for our native land as to consent that our country should be governed by foreign hands. 


Philippine women are patriots who want freedom for their country.
For this reason it would seem to be an excellent idea that American women should take part in any investigation that may be made in the Philippine Islands, and I believe they would attain better results than the men. Would it not also seem to you an excellent idea, since representation by our leaden men has been refused us, that a number of representative Philippine women should come to this country, so that you might become better acquainted with us. I encourage American women to support Philippine independence.
In conclusion, in the name of the Philippine women, I pray the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association to do what it can to remedy all this misery and misfortune in my unhappy country. You can do much to bring about the cessation of these horrors and cruelties which are to-day taking place in the Philippines, and to insist upon a more human course. I do not believe that you can understand or imagine the miserable condition of the women of my country, or how real is their suffering. Thousands have been widowed, orphaned, left alone and homeless, exposed and in the greatest misery. It is, then, not a surprising fact that the diseases born of hunger are increasing, and that to-day immorality prevails in the Philippines to an extent never before known. After all, you ought to understand that we are only contending for the liberty of our country, just as you once fought for the same liberty for yours. I ask you to help the people of the Philippines, who are suffering in this war for independence from the United States.

Clemencia López, Women of the Philippines: Address to Annual Meeting of the New England Woman’s Suffrage Association, May 29, 1902. Library of Congress.


Revolutionaries in the Philippines declared independence from Spain in 1896. This launched a war with Spain called the Philippine Revolution. The two sides agreed to a truce in 1897, and Spain promised it would pass reforms in the country.

The following year, the United States decided to support Cuban revolutionaries fighting for Cuban independence from Spain. This conflict became known as the Spanish-American War. The war was fought not only in Cuba but in other Spanish territories around the world. For example, the U.S. Navy attacked Spanish forces in Manila Bay in the Philippines. When the war ended with a Cuban and American victory, Filipino revolutionaries believed if the Americans supported Cuban independence, they would also support Filipino independence. The revolutionaries again declared independence. However, the American government claimed the Philippines as a territory in the peace negotiations with Spain.

Filipino revolutionaries were angry that the United States colonized the Philippines while supporting an independent Cuba. They called for independence once again, which started the Philippine-American War in 1899. The war ended with an American victory in 1902. An estimated 200,000 Filipino civilians died of famine or disease during the war. 

Over the following decades, Americans gradually expanded access to political participation for Filipinos. However, independence for the Philippines was still not secure. After Japan took control of the Philippines during World War II, the Philippines became an independent nation on July 4, 1946.

About the Resources

Clemencia López was a Filipina activist for independence. In 1901, the U.S. military imprisoned her three brothers for rebelling against American rule in the Philippines. She traveled to the United States in 1902 to pressure the American government to free them. Clemencia spoke with President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. While he did not agree injustice had been committed, her brothers were freed by the U.S. Army weeks later. She remained in the United States for almost two years to advocate for Philippine independence, even testifying in front of a Senate committee.

Clemencia gave this speech to the New England Woman Suffrage Association. This speech is unique because few colonized women of color had the opportunity to speak publicly against imperialism. Clemencia also describes the horrors of life in the Philippines under American rule. She used her gender and race to persuade her audience. She mentioned her lack of education and privilege. Clemencia also focused on the traditional role of women in the Philippines and their loyalty to their husbands and families. By giving speeches across the United States, she redefined her role as a Filipina woman. Clemencia ended her speech by encouraging the female audience to pressure the American government to reconsider its role in the Philippines. Clemencia gave the speech in Spanish. The English translation was published in American newspapers.


  • cessation: The ending of something.
  • famine: Period during which large numbers of people have no food and many of them starve to death.
  • immorality: Morally wrong behavior.
  • imperialism: Political ideology in which a rich and powerful country controls or wants control over less powerful countries. 
  • territory: Land that is part of the United States but not a state.
  • traversing: To go across.
  • truce: Agreement to stop fighting.

Discussion Questions

  • Why did Clemencia López give this speech?
  • How does Clemencia López describe the women of the Philippines?
  • What challenges do the women in the Philippines face under American rule?
  • How does Clemencia López specifically appeal to her audience of women suffrage activists? Why might that be an effective strategy?

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