Marissa Mullins, a senior at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, has always had a keen interest in how women are portrayed or represented in society. An article she read in Spanish class sparked her interest and led to a research project on adelitas, female soldiers in the Mexican Revolution.

The Wise resident built a wealth of research on the article by writer Judith Butler. Mullins was to present her research at the prestigious NCUR conference, but the event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her research is one of several topics featured in a series of articles on the UVA Wise students who missed out on the opportunities the NCUR conference provides undergraduate students.

Mullins learned that the Mexican revolution was a unique war in which women, known as the adelitas, fought, cooked for other soldiers, and provided medical aid. According to Mullins, the women soldiers had a major fighting advantage over men on the battlefield as the enemies did not perceive them as threats.

“In a way, they were like Trojan horses, which allowed them to conquer enemy territory faster and easier as they were able to blend in and strike whenever they had an opportunity,” Mullins said. “While women fought and died just as men had, history created depictions of them that does not represent necessarily their roles or contributions. These representations have become tainted, as many of the existing images depict them in a very sexualized manner. Although they fought as soldiers in the revolution and made several contributions, they are portrayed as if they were just there to entertain soldiers.”

When Mullins started her research, she expected a difficult search for actual photographs of the women as soldiers. She expected to find plenty of the sexualized versions. She was in for a nice surprise.

“When I began my search for these photographs, I was truly surprised to see that there were a few of them, and that these images show women that actually looked like the male soldiers,” she said.

Mullins hopes her research honors the women and their role in the revolution. She also plans to attend graduate school once she receives her degree. A marketing career is something she is considering after graduate school