free women of spain

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Mujeres Libres, or Free Women, was an anarchist women’s organization in Spain that aimed to empower working class women. It was initiated in 1936 by Lucía Sánchez Saornil, Mercedes Comaposada and Amparo Poch y Gascón and had approximately 30,000 members. 

In revolutionary Spain of the 1930s, many anarchist women were angry with what they viewed as persistent sexism amongst anarchist men and their marginalized status within a movement that ostensibly sought to abolish domination and hierarchy. Conditions for Spanish women before the Spanish revolution were oppressive, in the sense that they could be forced into arranged marriages without their consent and single women were not allowed to leave their homes without a male chaperone. Furthermore, working conditions were difficult for women because their salaries were half what male workers received. The limited rights allowed to women were only offered to middle and upper class women, and not offered at all to the working class. 

The organization was based on the idea of a “double struggle” for women’s liberation and social revolution and argued that the two objectives were equally important and should be pursued in parallel.

From the amazing documentary Living Utopia: Anarchism in Spain. [video]

“Freedom, or individual liberty, was a basic premise of the Spanish anarchist tradition. ‘Individual sovereignty’ is a prime tenet of most anarchist writing; the free development of one’s individual potential is one of the basic 'rights’ to which all humans are born. Yet Spanish anarchists were firmly rooted in the communalist-anarchist tradition. For them, freedom was fundamentally a social product: the fullest expression of individuality and of creativity can be achieved only in and through community. As Carmen Conde (a teacher who was also active in Mujeres Libres) wrote, describing the relationship of individuality and community: “I and my truth; I and my faith … And I for you, but without ever ceasing to be me, so that you can always be you. Because I don’ t exist without your existence, but my existence is also indispensable to yours.”
― Martha A. Ackelsberg, Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women