The Butterfly Dynasty is as old as stories. Part of the multitudes of once-upon-a-time tales girls enjoyed as children and read as they grew into adulthood.
First, they were quiet heroines like Lisa Simpson and Hermione Granger and Mulan. Later, other heroines emerged in history books and movies and on television. And here we should be careful about the unhealthy trend of falling into the PC trap of adopting male words for qualitatively different ideas of bravery. These women were heroines, quite often from humble beginnings, who changed the world or who let us imagine a better one and rose like the Phoenix in the imagination. They were Jeanne d’Arc and Edith Cavell and Sophie Scholl and a hundred more who voluntarily sacrificed themselves in the service of men’s wars and a paternal god who took their lives as a lesson to other like-minded females.
War and religion, with their pillars built around the subjugation, repression and even the annulment of women have always been male pursuits. Women have historically accepted the role of the ethereal, passive and maternal presence, never of authority and independence. Those mentioned above who tried had to take the consequences.
A woman may happily take her place of honour in the symbolism, like Bernadette Soubirous, the Virgin Mary or Nu Wa. Or they can be permitted to personify their homelands as Liberté climbing a mound of dead bodies barefoot and bare-breasted leading the French revolutionaries, or Britannia, Columbia or “Mother Russia” to inspire their men’s dreams of empire and convince their cannon fodder soldiers to blithely march off and die for it. Symbolism is okay, but there’s no place in the hierarchy.
Our current age, led by the bold writers and activists like Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem and Maya Angelou and a groundswell of others are beginning to right matters after a thousand years.
This brings me to “The Butterfly Dynasty”. That’s my creation for the world of Katy and Clara Yehonala. The Butterfly Dynasty of my novels has its roots in the past and originated in places as far apart in distance and time as it is possible to go. The Dominican Republic and Imperial China
The dynasty part is not hard to understand. My heroines, Katy and Clara Yehonala are descendants of the last Qing ruler, the Dowager Empress Cixi Yehonala. A woman who ruled over a quarter of the Earth’s population for nearly fifty years. No mean feat, despite her achievements being whitewashed by historians.
But why butterflies? Here we must travel to the Dominican Republic. The Three Mirabal sisters are remembered worldwide as a spreading ripple of resilience and resistance to the dictator Rafael Trujillo. Under Trujillo’s brutal regime from the mid-1900s, the Mirabal sisters: Patria, Minerva and María Teresa were known as “las mariposas” (the butterflies). The sisters became a symbol of the revolution against Trujillo for their unwavering efforts to organise a revolution despite abuse, multiple arrests and death threats. Trujillo’s secret police assassinated them on November 25, 1960. The fallen Mirabals are commemorated today on the anniversary of their death, now known worldwide as the International Day For the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
These lost sisters, and their iconic symbol of the butterfly, have become woven into the fabric of the feminist movement in the Dominican Republic and are spreading throughout the world, becoming an archetype for the continuing fight against gender-based violence and subjugation everywhere.
The fight that the Mirabal sisters bravely fought 60 years ago and their advocacy for freedom—particularly of women—remains not only necessary but continuously challenging. Looking back over the years since their deaths, have we honoured the legacy of the Mirabal sisters by ensuring a safer reality for women? Doing so is necessary to achieve the liberty envisaged by the “mariposas” making the words of author Julia Alvarez as true today as they were 60 years ago: “it is still the time of the butterflies.”
What better, therefore, than to have my own unheralded heroines helping to carry the banner of the butterflies into the world?
Novelist Robert Barclay
Check out my first novel, The Diary of Katy Yehonala, a great multicultural romance story – plus an interesting life story. Katy’s a girl who follows her destiny, as we all can.
You can read a preview of my latest novel, The Girl in the Orphanage here.
Buy a copy by visiting Shawline Publishing
Robert Barclay is an Australian author of some of the best Australian crime fiction books. His Australian multicultural novels follow the lives of Katy and Clara Yehonala, his strong female protagonists as they confront the evils of society.