Struggle for women’s vote in Catalonia

The feminist movement in 19th century Catalonia and Spain was strongly linked to the suffrage movements in the Anglosaxon countries.

In these movements two currents can be discerned: the moderate one which thought the vote would end inequality between the sexes, and the more radical one which not only wanted the vote, but also demanded changes within the family, work, sexuality, etc. considering the vote necessary but not enough.

In Spain the feminist movement started in the spirit of the moderate version due to the cultural importance of ideologies concerning roles within the family and the importance of the Church. Therefore at the beginning of the first half of the 20th century Catalan middle class figures were more linked to social catholicism than to feminism.

Two of the principal actors were author and promotor of better working conditions for women Dolors Monserdà (1845-1919) and educator and promotor of female education Francesca Bonnemaison (1872-1949).

Allthough in 1918 the constitution of the ANME (National Association of Spanish Women), the most important feminist organization of that time, took place, a year earlier the Catalan magazine Feminal had already defended women’s suffrage. This publication had been founded by journalist and composer Carme Karr (1865-1943) who also was the initiatior of the Barcelona branch of the ANME.

Carme Karr
Carme Karr

Karr was one of the few women in Spain who could identify with suffragists in Great Britain and the USA, like Emmeline Pankhurst, who in Spain were generally considered to be not very feminine and too radical.

During his dictatorship Primo de Rivera, in imitation of Mussolini, gave women the right to vote in the Municipal Statute in 1924. This sounded better than it in reality was, as the right was restricted to unmarried women over 23 who were not a prostitute. As marriage was the rule, it therefore concerned a very small minority. Moreover, the right could not be put into practise as no municipal elections were called.

Finally in 1931 women’s vote was regulated in the Spanish Constitution. Two years later women in the village of Canet de Mar could assert their right for the first time in a referendum about the construction of the municipal market.

Portraits of the three women mentioned in this post, will appear on my blog within the next couple of months.

Main source: Moments històrics de les dones a Catalunya, publication of the Institut Català de les Dones

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