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Cyndi Lauper learns she's descended from a Swiss rebel who 'fought the man' like she does

During an appearance on "Finding Your Roots," the singer learned she's descended from a man who helped lead a farmer revolution in 1650s Switzerland.

Cyndi Lauper has never shied away from speaking truth to power and fighting for what she believes in, so she was proud to discover that one of her ancestors was a bona fide rebel during an episode of "Finding Your Roots."

The singer, 69, enlisted the help of the PBS show's host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., to trace her family's ancestry.

In the episode, Lauper learns that her 7th great-grandfather, Christen Lauper, was involved in a farmer revolution back in the 1600s. "Christen Lauper was no ordinary farmer," host Gates says. "He was involved in a seminal event in his nation's history."

Gates goes to explain that in the early 160s, Switzerland’s troubled economy caused grain prices to plummet. Rather than help peasants pay off their debts, the government devalued its currency, which also drastically affected the value of the peasants' financial savings.

Determined to fight back and take control of their future, the peasants organized a revolt, and Christen was listed among the rebels in the Swiss State Archives.

The farmer was a "general agitator" and "rebel," Gates explains, helping spread the word about the revolution and helping to organize meetings where peasants "shared their disapproval" and "plotted next steps."

“That’s amazing,” the singer says when she hears the news.

The movement marked the first time that Swiss authorities faced joint action from peasants, Gates says. Soon enough, the peasants reached treaties with the Swiss authorities. However, the government double crossed the rebels and picked the war back up again.

"The peasants were crushed, leaving Christen in dire jeopardy," Gates narrates.

The government executed over 40 of the peasant ringleaders and punished others. Christen was fined about 70 days of wages, which was a major financial blow. He was lucky not to be killed.

"Your ancestor took huge risks to create a better life for himself and his fellow citizens and he paid the price for it," Gates says.

To this day, there are monuments in Switzerland that memorialize the rebels' cause.

Lauper was touched to learn of her connection to the revolution. “I feel proud to be a descendant of Christen Lauper and that he was a revolutionary and that he worked local, state to state, to get the people together and organize them. I think that’s amazing," she says.

The "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" singer also couldn't help but compare her own rebel attitude to that of her ancestor.

"I know I’m always fighting the man. Now I know where it comes from,” she says.

During her session with Gates, Lauper also learns about the first member of her Sicilian family to come to America: Gaetana Gallo. In 1909, she traveled from Palermo to New York City and paid for members of her family to join her.

Lauper, who grew up knowing Gallo, took a moment to thank her for everything she did to help her family settle in New York.

“She made it possible for me to be born here,” she says. 

While talking about her family's history, Lauper gives credit to her own late mother, Catrine Dominique, who she credits with boosting her confidence and allowing her to dream big.

“My mother sat us down early and made us talk to her. She’d go, ‘What do you think about this? And what do you think about that?’ And she'd be talking to us like were were grown ups,” she explains.

This approach was a departure from what Catrine and her women ancestors experienced at the hands of their male relatives in Italy and the U.S., according to Lauper.

"They would definitely keep women down. So basically, upward education and dreams, not really happening because you were the free domestic help. Even in America, they were doing stuff like that to my aunt (and) to my mother. And honestly, that's what made me come out with boxing gloves," she says.

After all these years of standing up for herself and "fighting the man," Lauper is glad to know who her ancestors were and how their actions helped shape the life she leads today.

"I just wanted to know who the heck I was because I started to have a lot of questions," she says.