Villaverde used her platform as president of Las Hijas de Cuba to become a more recognizable force within the independence movement. The organization played an important role in raising funds for Cuban soldiers during the Ten Years' War. Additionally, as a representative of Las Hijas de Cuba, Emilia Casanova de Villaverde presented the merits of Cuban liberation before the U.S. Congress on numerous occasions. She was the first Cuban woman granted the right to address the United States Congress on this issue. When her father was imprisoned in Havana during the Ten Years' War, Villaverde spoke with U.S. government officials, including President Ulysses S. Grant, asking for protection. Spain accused many members of the property-owning Creole class of “infidelity” during this contentious time, loosely defined as any actions disrupting the political order, and confiscated their property as punishment. President Grant agreed to protect her father from the Spanish government and soon after Villaverde’s father was released. In 1871 and 1872, she again petitioned the United States Congress to support Cuban independence rather than Spanish colonial power. In 1871, Emilia Casanova de Villaverde pleaded the U.S. government for assistance after learning that eight medical school students at the University of Havana were being held hostage by Spanish authorities. In 1872, she informed Washington officials of Spain’s hostile behavior on the island of Cuba and presented an extensive argument detailing the economic advantages of aiding Cuba over Spain. Despite de Villaverde’s efforts, the U.S. government decided it would be most strategic to side with a weak colonial power rather than a sovereign Cuba.
In order to increase the international visibility of the Cuban emancipation struggle, she wrote to prominent European figures such as Giuseppe Garibaldi and Victor Hugo. In an 1869 letter to Giuseppe Garibaldi, Villaverde stated her abolitionist views: “the beginning of our revolution means the freedom of our slaves, giving them arms and incorporating them in our patriotic ranks.” Garibaldi responded to her appeal by stating that he supported Cuba’s quest for freedom from colonial oppression, but he did not make any specific commitments to aid the movement.
Emilia Casanova de Villaverde remained staunchly involved in the fight for Cuban liberation until her death on March 4, 1897. When her husband Cirilo Villaverde died in 1894, she briefly traveled to Cuba for his burial, but decided to return to New York City to continue working for Cuban independence for the remainder of her life. Her death in 1897 occurred just a year before the Spanish-American War in 1898, which resulted in Cuba’s independence. Just a few years earlier, in 1895, the Cubans went to war and essentially won their independence until the explosion of the USS Maine occurred. Hence, the overthrow of Spanish power did not result in the fulfillment of Cuba’s revolutionary goals, but instead marked the transition to indirect American rule. This indirect American intervention in Cuban affairs betrayed the Cuba Libre movement’s goals of eradicating colonial oppression and racial inequality.