Love, Learning and Suffrage in the time of La Electricista

I am posting this herstory to inspire people. I do not have enough electric evidence  but am blogging what could have been for women like Oryang and Rosa Alvero.

Gregoria de Jesus’s  love blossomed as the Katipunan found her.  Gregoria aka Oryang was 18 years old when she  married Andres Bonifacio in 1893 in a Catholic Church in Binondo. The Katipunan women’s chapter was formed a week later when Gregoria and Andres held another wedding that the Katipuneros approved of.

By that time, there were already some electric lamps in Manila and Gregoria could have a honeymoon with Bonifacio from early morning to late night . Manila saw electricity in 1892 with the founding of  La Electricista, which provided electricity to residential customers. With the completion of a new power plant in 1895, La Electricista began providing street lighting service to the Manila. One can imagine more women in Katipunan  meetings and  reading documents with the coming of electric lights.Their social and political life grew and  housekeeping expanded to keeping the Katipunan  a secret. In From 1893 to 1896 they were organizing Katipunan, Gregoria, kept the secret documents of the revolution and we can surmised, used them well to recruit more women.

When Bonifacio was captured and  executed in 1897, Gregoria continued the fight  for independence. She met and married Julio Nakpil, another Katipunero in 1898. They settled in the house of  Bautista  in Quiapo after 1914. Oryang’s life had become less dangerous  and the Bautista’s house had electricity since it was a plateria. She bore Julio several offsprings and became a good mother and wife.

While Oryang was four years old, another heroine was born, Rosa Sevilla Alvero in Tondo, Manila on March 4, 1879.  Rosa was a gifted child and sought to learn many things  not just for herself  but for many girls. After finishing her degree of Maestra Superior with honors in Assumption College , Rosa established Instituto de Mujeres  in 1900 and served  as directress for 45 years. By that time electric trams were in operation and women could travel faster in the city. Rosa’s teachers and  students  must have used the electric trams to get to the school daily

Also in 1903, the government of the Philippines began accepting bids to operate Manila’s electric tramway, as well as providing electricity to the city and its suburbs. The only bidder was Charles M. Swift, a Detroit-based businessman, who founded a new company, The Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company, or Meralco, the same year. Rosa Alvero started organizing  in 1903 the League of Women Voters and La Liga Damas. More single and married women wanted to vote  and be part of the public voice, just as the women were part of Katipunan in Oryang’s  generation. Mothers and their children could avail of longer study hours because  La Electricista expanded its customer base to 3,000 customers, as well as its streetlight business.

A determined educator, Rosa enrolled at U.S.T. at age 49 to get her Masters and Ph.d, then became its first dean of women. Appointed to the Supreme National Council, she spearheaded the movement to adopt Tagalog as the national language; and to the Women’s Council, to aid war victims.

Just as Gregoria de Jesus’s life became less laborous with time saving devices, Rosa Alvero’s  influence  and  her campaigns for women’s education and suffrage continued with the expansion of electrical services. In those years, electricity allowed more women time  and space to develop their minds further. There were more time saving devices and women did not have to fetch water. Water and electricity was already available in their homes. They could cook and wash faster and keep their homes clean . These conveniences generated more female energy to pursue participation  in political affairs.

By 1930s in the Philippines  more women could travel and go public with their issues.  In 1933, the National Federation of Women’s Clubs lobbying for suffrage won the right to vote– in theory, as the law was not implemented yet.

By 1935 a  plebiscite was held to gather at least 300,000 signatures in favor of women’s right to vote; the women campaign and gather 447,725.

In 1937 the  law on women’s suffrage was passed. Carmen Planas became the first woman in a city council in Quezon City.

During the thirty two years of campaigning for women’s suffrage, the electric domain was dominated by Associated Gas & Electric Co. (AGECO) of the United States. It acquired Meralco in 1925 . In1930, it inaugurated the Botocan Hydro Station one of the region’s largest construction projects of the time. The additional capacity allowed the company to expand its customers base throughout the metro Manila area. While women were exercising the right to vote for the first time in 1937, the government needed to strengthen its hand in power generation and established the National Power Corporation NAPOCOR .

All these social and political changes in the life of women like Gregoria de Jesus and Rosa Sevilla Alvero fed into a river of knowledge towards nation building, here and overseas.

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