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.
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.