Revealing Stories of China's Historic All-female Army Force

September 4, 2017  By Chen Weilin, Zhang Qiwang  Editor: Cherry Peng
Revealing Stories of China's Historic All-female Army Force

The opera 'Red Detachment of Women' staged at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing on June 14 [Hainan Daily/Song Guoqiang]

During the 30s, a 100-plus member strong all-female special company of the Red Army made history for their revolutionary exploits.

Based in the southern province of Hainan, they fought for liberation and freedom tenaciously amidst volleys of gunfire, say historians.

Joining revolution enthusiastically

In 1924, Hainan was shocked by the story that primary school student Feng Su'e, who lived in the city of Qionghai, refused an arranged marriage. Feng wrote an article on resisting arranged marriages, and it was by published in Hainan Youth, arousing much concern and support.

"It fully showed how industrious Qionghai women were resisting and developing a revolutionary consciousness," said Chen Jin'ai, former director of the Party History Research Office of Qionghai Municipal Party Committee.

In 1930, the 2nd Independent Division of the Chinese Workers and Peasants Red Army was established. In 1931, Lehui County Red Women's Army was set up, attracting many women from the neighboring counties.

Later, the Women Special Task Company was officially established, indicating the birth of the first women-only armed forces to take up combat tasks during the Agrarian Revolutionary War (1927-1937).

Being independent and brave

As a highly-organized combat force, the Women Special Task Company was composed of three platoons and in each platoon there were three squads. Altogether there were 103 members.

During half a year, the Women Special Task Company won victory in three battles and enjoyed a high reputation across the island.

In 1931, a Kuomintang Army was stationed in Lehui County, which was only 10 kilometers away from the revolutionary base of the Red Army. The Red Army decided to uproot this threat.

The women's army advanced and retreated strategically, successfully luring the enemies into an ambush. In this battle, the Red Army gained a victory with more than 20 enemy soldiers killed and 70 captured.

In another battle to occupy a gun turret, the Women Special Task Company pretended to launch attacks while secretly digging tunnels. After several days of hard struggle and elaborate preparations, they successfully broke in.

In addition, the women soldiers protected ordnance and ammunition factories and other important military powerhouses from destruction by enemy troops.

For the victories over the three battles, the Women Special Force Company were honored as the Red Detachment of Women, going down in history forever.

Being sacrificing and secret-keeping

The answer to why the Red Detachment of Women has inspired so many generations lies in their victories in battles, and also in their willingness to sacrifice themselves.

During the most miserable period, the women soldiers made great sacrifices.

In 1932, they performed a mission of providing cover for the army leaders. They fought bravely against shells, whistling bullets and flying stones. After firing the last bullet, they bravely engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. In the end, 10 women died.

After the defeat, some women soldiers were captured and put into prison. When they were questioned by the head of the Kuomintang 1st Army about the whereabouts of the Red Army, they remained silent.

They were released until the Lugouqiao Incident (July 1937) occured.

"Throughout the history of the revolution in Hainan, countless women have contributed their strength, and have been greatly inspired by the spirit of the Red Detachment of Women.The name Red Detachment of Women has become an honor as well as a symbol of the unyielding tenacity of Hainan women," concluded Xing Yikong, the former director of Party History Research Institute of Hainan Province.

Revealing Stories of China's Historic All-female Army Force

The Memorial Garden for the Red Detachment of Women in Qionghai, Hainan [Hainan Daily/Yuan Chen]


(Source: Hainan Daily/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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