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International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, ed. Immanuel Ness, Blackwell Publishing, 2009, pp.

36093612

Womens movement, Spain 3609

Womens movement, Spain


Pedro Garca Guirao
Despite the existence of distinctive female personalities and individual interventions on behalf of women, feminism understood as a mass movement remained a rarity in Spain until April 14, 1931; that is, until the proclamation of the Second Republic. For feminism to triumph, two things were necessary: rst, the popularization of the ideas represented by the French Revolution, and second, the Industrial Revolution. Neither of these two prerequisites existed in Spain until the Second Republic and the country remained in the grip of conservative Catholicism, without anything resembling the Industrial Revolution that was happening in the rest of Europe. Mara de Zayas Sotomayor (15901661?) is often considered as the rst Spanish feminist and female novelist. The heroines of her works

International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, ed. Immanuel Ness, Blackwell Publishing, 2009, pp. 36093612

3610 Womens movement, Spain


are women who, in the social sphere, are capable of gaining access to education. In the private sphere, they are framed in the picaresque, with a certain degree of sexual freedom typical of the aristocracy, which enabled the author to attack concepts deeply rooted in the Spanish mentality, such as honor and virtue. Even though Mara de Zayas Sotomayor was translated into a number of European languages, the Inquisition in the eighteenth century prohibited and persecuted the publication of her works, accusing them of undermining the habits and customs of Christian morality. The era was particularly marked by the proliferation of prejudices against women and there are virtually no movements that illustrate even minimal freedom for women. During the nineteenth century, two historical events might have altered the position of women in Spain; both of them, however, ended up having little impact. First, during the Revolution in 1868 and the subsequent First Republic (18734), activities resembling feminism emerged in connection with the philosophy of Krausism. Second, in the course of the 1875 Restoration, the Institucin Libre de Enseanza (Free Institute of Education) was founded. Its guiding principles were laicism, apoliticism, and the defense of the freedom of knowledge. Nevertheless, these two historical phenomena hardly contributed to the emergence of Spanish feminism since, when they considered womens roles in the society, they addressed merely their roles in the family. In other words, women even though educated remained enclosed in the private sphere. Despite the general conservatism of Spanish society, the nineteenth century witnessed the emergence of at least three important female gures. Flora Tristn (180344) was the rst person in Spain to connect the demands of feminism and socialism. In her view, without an anticapitalist revolution, it was impossible to liberate anybody: neither men nor women. According to some theorists, such as Lidia Falcon, Tristn was repeatedly marginalized by the Marxists as a feminist intellectual, even though Marx possibly plagiarized his most important ideas about the working class from her work. In any case, Tristn never defended a separate feminist movement. The second inuential female from the nineteenth century, Concepcin Arenal (182093), was the rst world-renowned criminologist who worked as an inspector of prisons and correctional institutions for women. She claimed that women had always lived on the margins due to their being denied worthwhile education, instead being taught basic lessons about gallantry, the picaresque, and the inevitability of marriage. In 1859, Arenal founded the Conferencias de San Vicente de Pal womens group, and exactly ten years later, together with Fernando Castro, a literary and artistic association for women, the Ateneo Artstico y Literario de Seoras. Despite the subsequent social repercussions, the latter association served as a model for similar organizations in the future. The last signicant woman of the era was the countess Emilia Pardo Bazn (18511921), who criticized the disastrous position of women through her novels. She pointed out that it was precisely in the area of education that differences between men and women originated. The only education that Spanish women of the time received was in preparation for marriage and motherhood. Pardo Bazn also attacked the contradiction in the law that enabled women (if they had a well-off husband or father) to study but not to use their education in a profession. On one of her trips to Oxford, she became fascinated with the life and works of John Stuart Mill, especially The Subjection of Women, which she translated into Spanish and provided with a prologue. At the beginning of the twentieth century, in 1918, Mara Espinosa de los Monteros founded the Asociacin Nacional de Mujeres Espaolas (National Association of Spanish Women, ANME). It devoted itself to womens suffrage and soon cleared space for the creation of other similar associations such as Juventud Universitaria Femenina, Mujer del Porvenir, Progresiva Femenina, Liga Espaola para el Progreso de la Mujer, and Sociedad Concepcin Arenal. In 1936, ANME attempted to dene itself as a political party and join the Popular Front under the name Accin Poltica Feminista Independiente. This effort, however, proved fruitless and ANME was dissolved at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Another organization that appeared in the 1920s was Cruzada de Mujeres Espaolas. One of its members was the writer and journalist Carmen de Burgos (better known as Colombine), who organized the rst demonstration of suffragists in the streets of Madrid in 1921. Although these associations included activists from various social backgrounds and did not belong to any political party, they all leaned toward the left. The more traditional right,

International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, ed. Immanuel Ness, Blackwell Publishing, 2009, pp. 36093612

Womens movement, Spain 3611

alerted by the proliferation of feminist associations of indecorous radicalism, unsuitable for Spanish women, created in reaction Accin Catlica de la Mujer in 1919, dedicated to the defense of the ideal traditional woman. With the advent of the Second Republic, women for the rst time obtained seats in the parliament: Clara Campoamor (18881972), Margarita Nelken (18961968), and Victoria Kent (18921987). All three belonged to ANME, even though they held different opinions regarding the question of womens suffrage. Campoamor, who was a rm defender of universal suffrage, also belonged to Asociacin Femenina Universitaria and Unin Republicana Feminista and defended the slogan one woman, one vote, since the new government enabled women to be elected but not to vote. Nelken, on the other hand, was a member of Comit de Auxilio Femenino and Comit Nacional de Mujeres Antifascistas, but she did not promote female suffrage. She argued that Spanish women were not ready to vote since the majority of them were so inuenced and manipulated by the church that they would elect reactionary parties. Similarly, Kent opposed womens suffrage, although as a vice-president of Lyceum Club Femenino (founded in 1926 by Mara de Maeztu) she always addressed problems relating to womens position in the society. In broad terms, the Spanish Revolution and Civil War gave rise to two types of women who were heard in different ways. On the one hand, there were radical women from the republican side, split into two major organizations: Mujeres Contra la Guerra y el Fascismo (its members were communists, socialists, and republicans) and Mujeres Libres (which included anarchists). The former group, created in 1933, was led by Catalina Salmern and Dolores Ibrruri (1895 1989). Its priority was to win the war, and in order to achieve that, it thought it best for women to temporarily return to their traditional gender roles as mothers, wives, and daughters. The slogan of the organization was: Men on the front, women in the rear guard. The anarcho-feminist organization Mujeres Libres emerged in 1936 out of correspondence between Grupo Cultural Femenino, founded two years earlier in Barcelona, and the Madrid-based newspaper Mujeres Libres. The main initiators were Luca Snchez Saornil (18951970), Mercedes Comaposada Guilln (190194), and Amparo Poch y Gascn (1902

1968). The group did not form alliances with the Confederacin Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Work, CNT), the Federacin Anarquista Ibrica (Iberian Anarchist Federation, FAI), or the Federacin Ibrica de Juventudes Libertarias (Iberian Federation of Anarchist Youth, FIJL), preferring to remain independent within the anarchist movement in order to address more specically the issues related to women. On the other hand, the Francoist side promoted the reactionary model of the traditional, submissive, and obedient woman. In April 1939, the dream of an emancipated woman with equal rights to men vanished along with the victory of the Francoists. Women returned to being the slaves of the home, the church, and men. Laws concerning divorce, civil marriage, and abortion were immediately eliminated from Spanish society. For more than 30 years, Seccin Femenina of the Falange, directed by Pilar Primo de Rivera (190791), imposed its one and only female role model. After the death of Franco, all legal barriers preventing women from achieving their liberty were removed from the constitution in 1978. In spite of this, a crisis and polarization within the feminist movement emerged. On the one side stood the radical feminists, such as the groups Lamar, Colectivo Feminista, and Organizacin Feminista Revolucionaria, which were independent of political parties and unions. On the other side was institutionalized feminism, supported by political parties, unions, and universities. Representative examples include Partido Feminista, founded in 1979 under the direction of Lidia Falcn and legalized in 1981; Instituto de la Mujer, created in 1983 by the ministry of culture; and nally, the incorporation of Spain in 1986 into the European Union (EU), which led to the adoption of its requirements and programs concerning womens equality. The new feminism that was born out of this historical and institutional conjunction gave rise to other organizations dedicated to specic problems, such as Comisin Pro-derecho al Aborto, Ateneo Feminista, Centro de Estudios e Investigacin Feminista, Forum para una Poltica Feminista and gora Feminista. In conclusion, contemporary Spanish citizens have absorbed various values for which feminism has been struggling for many years, although it is necessary to emphasize that there still exist problems that the society as a whole and public

International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, ed. Immanuel Ness, Blackwell Publishing, 2009, pp. 36093612

3612 Womens movement, United States, 16th18th centuries


institutions should eradicate: violence against women [and] the violation of certain fundamental rights of women within the framework of political, civic, social, and cultural rights (Folguera 2007: 196). These social maladies have been addressed by such organizations as Red Feminista de Organizaciones Contra la Violencia de Gnero, Federacin de Asociaciones de Mujeres Separadas y Divorciadas (in 1973 known as Asociacin de Mujeres Separadas Legalmente), and Asociacin Democrtica de la Mujer.
SEE ALSO: Anarchism and Gender; Confederacin Nacional del Trabajo (CNT); Federacin Anarquista Ibrica (FAI); International Womens Day; Mujeres Libres; Snchez Saornil, Luca (18951970); Spanish Revolution

References and Suggested Readings


Cook, A. T. (1977) Emilia Pardo Bazn y la Educacin como Elemento Primordial en la Liberacin de la Mujer. Hispania 60, 2 (May): 25965. Folguera, P. (Ed.) (2007) El Feminismo en Espaa. Dos Siglos de Historia. Madrid: Editorial Pablo Iglesias. Garrido, E. (Ed.) (1997) Historia de las Mujeres en Espaa. Madrid: Sntesis. Kaplan, T. E. (1971) Spanish Anarchism and Womens Liberation. Journal of Contemporary History 6 (2): 10110. Nash, M. (1986) Mujeres, familia y trabajo en Espaa, 18751936. Barcelona: Antrophos. Scanlon, G. M. (1986) La polmica feminista en la Espaa contempornea, 18681974. Madrid: Akal.