Vilma Lucila Espín Guillois (April 7, 1930 – June 18, 2007) was a Cuban revolutionary, feminist and chemical engineer. She was one of the most important fighters in the struggle for Cuban women’s equality as well as fighting against the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship.
Vilma studied chemical engineering at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts before meeting revolutionary leader Frank País in Havana in the 1950s. The meeting led Espín to become a leader of the revolutionary movement in Oriente province. Espín acted as a messenger between the movement and Fidel Castro’s revolutionary underground 26th of July Movement, which had been relocated to Mexico in order to plan a future invasion. It was in Mexico that Espín met Raúl Castro. She then went on to assist the revolutionaries in the Sierra Maestra mountains after the 26th of July Movement’s return to Cuba on the Granma yacht. She and Raúl married in January 1959.
Vilma Espín headed the Cuban Delegation to the First Latin American Congress on Women and Children in Chile in September 1959. She also headed the Cuban delegations to the Conferences on Women held in Mexico, Copenhagen, Nairobi and Beijing.
Espín was President of the Federation of Cuban Women from its foundation in 1960 until her death. The organization is a recognized non-government organization which claims a membership of more than three and a half million women. Espín was also a member of the Council of State of Cuba, as well as a member of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1980 to 1991.
She died in La Habana at 4:14 p.m. EDT on June 18, 2007, following a long illness.