Daughters of Spain
Lubna de Córdoba
(Cordoba, 10th century) Lubna was a slave in the second half of the 10th century who arrived at the court of Caliph Al-Hakam II, where she ended up working as a secretary and scribe. Not only did she have a good knowledge of grammar and mathematics, but she was also dedicated to poetry writing and was an expert copyist and translator. As she was highly cultured, she was in charge of the book collection for the royal library, a task that enabled her to travel to the Middle East in search of new items.
(Salamanca, ca. 1465) Beatriz was well respected in her time for her mastery of Latin which she could write and speak at an early age. Due to that ability, she was known as “La Latina”. She had access to Latin education in a convent and then she studied grammar doing some courses at the University of Salamanca. She taught Latin to Isabella of Castile and her four daughters. She was a perfect match for the Catholic monarchs because she was very religious. Her intelligence made her really closed to Queen Isabella and she became her confidant.
Lucrecia de León
(Madrid, 1567) In the court of Philip II, this highly intelligent dame had hundreds of dreams and visions that predicted some of the major political disasters of her time, including the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Her dreams were documented and made public by a group of supporters but this ended with her accused of blasphemy and dealing with the devil. She was trialled, physically punished and sentenced to confinement in a convent by the Inquisition. She was pregnant and gave birth to a child in prison. Once free, she was exiled from Madrid. She disappeared, with her daughter, from historical documents of the period.
Catalina de Erauso
(San Sebastian, 1592 – Cuetlaxtla, 1650?) Catalina lived in a convent all her childhood from the age of 4. She was sent by her parents to make her a nun because she was considered too ugly for finding a husband. But as a teenager, she escaped and travelled to the New World. During her life she adopted male identities to have access to education and war. In the Americas, she studied Latin, worked as a shop assistant, fought with the men, and loved women. She demonstrated to be such an astute and brave fighter that she was made lieutenant by the local governor. In fact, she became so rebellious that she was expelled from the Spanish army. She was twice condemned to and saved from capital punishment. She was finally forced to declare her female identity. Eventually, she returned to Spain, got her pension as an ex-soldier, and went back to the Americas where she worked for a few years as a mule driver until she died.
Luisa Ignacia Roldá
(Seville, 1652 – Madrid, 1704) The first known female sculptor of a Spanish monarch. She learnt to draw and work with wood and terracotta along with her siblings in her father’s studio in Seville. She married a co-worker against his father’s will so she had to continue independently of her family ties. She moved to Cadiz and then to Madrid where she worked for both Charles II and Philip V. For them, she made numerous works without being paid on most occasions. She died in the poorest conditions.
Isabel de Braganza
(Queluz, 1797 – Aranjuez, 1818) Promoter and founder of the Prado Museum in Madrid. She was born a Portuguese princess who lived in Brazil for a few years with her mother and siblings after her parents’ separation. At 19 she was married to her uncle King Ferdinand VII, but died a couple of years later during childbirth. Well educated in the arts, in Madrid she became aware of the magnificent royal collection of paintings and ensured the public exhibition of the collection.
(Ferrol, 1820 – Vigo, 1893) She studied law at the University of Madrid by dressing as a man. She published articles in newspapers, many of which highlighted the poor education and work conditions of women. As a social activist she visited men and women in jail and fought for a reform in the criminal law.
(Almendralejo, 1820 – Lisbon, 1911) A recognised child prodigy, she developed her talent as a pianist and writer. Married to a diplomat from the American Embassy, she organised many social gatherings at home with politicians, artists and intellectuals of the time. Her progressive ideology was pro women and antislavery. She wrote numerous novels, plays and poems.
Emilia Pardo Bazán
(A Coruña, 1851 – Madrid, 1921) As the only child from an aristocratic family, she had access to a good education. She became a fiction writer and avid reader from an early age. She studied English and German to read authors in their original languages. Although she was a reputed literary figure who earned a living with her writings, her various attempts to get a position in the Royal Spanish Academy failed to have enough support. However, in 1916 she managed to be nominated the first woman professor of Romance Languages at the University of Madrid. In her academic activity and fictional work she explored many important women’s issues by focusing on female workers and gender violence issues.
Carmen de Burgos
(Rodalquilar, 1867 – Madrid, 1932) Recognised as the first female journalist in Spain. She worked as a war journalist and published more than 200 books. She was a feminist republican who fought for women’s liberation in Spain. She supported the vote for women and the introduction of a divorce law, being one of the protagonists of the first suffragist demonstration in Madrid in 1921. These activities made her a censored author during Franco’s dictatorship for most of the 20th century.
(Madrid, 1888 – Lausanne, 1972) She studied law at the University of Madrid and entered the Royal Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation in 1924. In 1931 she became an MP during the First Republic in Spain contributing directly to the Constitution and the support for women’s rights, particularly of their right to vote. When the civil war started in Spain, she went to exile. She lived in France, Argentina and finally in Switzerland until her death.
María Moliner Ruiz
(Paniza, 1900 – Madrid, 1981) Abandoned by her father, María was raised by her mother but managed to attend the University of Zaragoza and get a degree in History in 1921. All her life she was a promoter of reading in Spain as well as an avid collector of words that people used. She worked as linguist, lexicographer and librarian. Based on her studies she wrote the singular Diccionario de uso del español but did not manage to get a chair in the Royal Academy.
Margarita Salas Falgueras
(Canero, 1938-) One of the best known Spanish female scientists at present. She is a Doctor in biochemistry and molecular biology and started her professional career teaching at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Member of the various national and international scientific academies including the Royal Spanish Academy, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was the first Spanish woman to become a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences. She has won numerous prizes and awards for her contributions to science.
Pilar Miró Romero
(Madrid, 1940-1997) She studied law, journalism and cinema studies. During the last decades of the 20th century she became one of the most active filmmakers and screenwriters in Spain. In 1992 she won the Silver Bear in the Berlin International Film Festival with her film 'Beltenebros' and in 1996 seven Goya prizes with her work El perro del hortelano. She became the first female general director for the Spanish national radio and television channels. She also worked as director of theatre plays and opera.
Dolores Ibárruri Gómez
(Gallarta 1895 – Madrid, 1989) Republican political leader who had to live in exile in the Soviet Union after the Spanish civil war. Dolores had to leave education at 15 but she continued self-educating herself throughout her life. She engaged in political activism, writing and oratory, using the pseudonym "La pasionaria" (The passionflower). She was for decades the secretary general of the Spanish Communist party and later on she became its honorary President. She was greatly inspirational to many Spanish women because of her fighting spirit as political leader, mother and worker.
María Gutiérrez Blanchard
(Santander, 1881 - Paris, 1932) María had a successful career as a painter and art teacher, first in Madrid and then in Paris. She was born disabled and suffered from multiple physical problems all her life. Despite these difficulties she was extremely productive. Her talent got her many awards and gave her access to the avant-garde artistic circles of the period, exhibiting her works internationally along side some of the best painters of her generation.
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