Dolores Ibárruri, the eighth of eleven children, was born in Gallarta, Spain, on 9th December, 1895.
Ibárruri was born into a family of miners, Ibárruri experienced poverty as a child. Although an intelligent student, her family could not afford to pay for her to be trained as a teacher and instead became a seamstress.
In 1916 she married a miner and had six children but only two survived to adulthood. She later wrote that they had died because of her inability to provide adequate medical care and nourishment for them.
The family's financial situation deteriorated when her husband, an active trade unionist, was imprisoned for leading a strike. After reading the works of Karl Marx, Ibárruri joined the Communist Party (PCE). Ibárruri wrote articles for the miners' newspaper, El Minero Vizcaino, using the pseudonym Pasionaria (passion flower).
In 1920 Ibárruri was elected to the Provincial Committee of the Basque Communist Party. She soon became an important local political figure and in 1930 was elected to the Central Committee of the Spanish Communist Party. The following year she became editor of the left-wing newspaper, Mundo Obrero. Over the next few years she used her position to campaign for an improvement in women's conditions in Spain.
In September 1931 Ibárruri was arrested and charged with hiding a Communist comrade on the run from the Civil Guard. After being held in prison in Bilbao she was released in January 1932. She was then re-arrested and held in prison until January 1933.
Ibárruri was a member of the Spanish delegation of the Communist International which met in the Soviet Union in 1933. She also attended meetings of the Comintern where she supported what became known as the Popular Front policy.
Concerned by the emergence of fascism in Italy and Germany, Ibárruri helped organize the World Committee of Women Against War and Fascism and was a delegate at its first conference in France in August 1934.
In 1936 Ibárruri, now known by everybody as (La Pasionaria), was elected to the Cortes. During the first few months as a deputy she campaigned for legislation to improve working, housing and health conditions. She also sought land reform and rights for trade unionists. Ibárruri also successfully negotiated the release of several political prisoners in Spain.
During the Spanish Civil War Ibárruri was the chief propagandist for the Republicans. On 18th July, 1936, she ended a radio speech with the words: "The fascists shall not pass! No Pasaran". This phrase eventually became the battle cry for the Republican Army. In another speech she declared at a meeting for women: "It is better to be the widows of heroes than the wives of cowards!"
In September 1936 Ibárruri was sent to France and Belgium to rally support for the Republic. At one meeting she used the phrase "the Spanish people would rather die on its feet than live on its knees." She became a member of the committee designated to administer funds sent to Spain by the Comintern. Ibárruri was also involved in the destruction of the Worker's Party (POUM) and the dismissal of Francisco Largo Caballero and Juan Peiro from the government and supported the appointment of Juan Negrin as prime minister.
Ibárruri became Secretary General of the Communist Party (PCE) in May 1944. After the war she remained in Moscow and in 1964 was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and the following year the Order of Lenin. However, in 1968 she strongly attacked the Red Army invasion of the Czechoslovakia. The Russian leadership responded by sponsoring a breakaway Spanish Communist Party led by Enrique Lister.