Just as in most European countries, Catalan women had to fight their way into university. However, the possibilities in which women could shape their lives were clearly determined by the course of Spanish history.
The first students
In the beginning women entered university by enrolling in medical studies; later on they chose exact sciences. The first woman ever to set foot in a Catalan university classroom was Elena Maseras who enrolled in the Medicine Faculty of the University of Barcelona in 1872 (see pictures below). Allegedly she was applauded when she made her appearance in the lecture room. Some six years later she finished her studies and requested to be examined in order to obtain her degree.
This seemingly simple petition threw the bureaucratic organs of the university into a state of great confusion. It took them three years to sort things out and in February 1889 she finally got permission to present herself at the exams where she obtained the qualification ‘excellent’. Nevertheless, these obstacles had disheartened her, and she decided not to continue her medical studies and gave up her aspirations of becoming a doctor. During the three years of bureaucratic silence she had followed a teacher training and worked in this capacity in secondary institutions till her death.
The fact that a woman was studying at university raised a whole range of issues, as this phenomena rocked moral principles of a society that was not prepared to let men and women share the same classsroom. Also ideologic and economic principles were at stake, or so it was believed, when reality sank in: studying women not only wanted to acquire knowledge, but they also intended to exercize a profession.