Clara Campoamor

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Bust of Clara Campoamor in Madrid (2006).

Clara Campoamor (Madrid, 12 February, 1888–Lausanne, 30 April, 1972) was a Spanish politician and feminist best known for her advocacy for women's rights and suffrage during the writing of the Spanish constitution of 1931. A child of a working-class family, Campoamor began work as a seamstress at age 13, later working in a number of government positions before securing entry to law school at the University of Madrid. She became active in a number of women's organizations before standing for election as a member of the 1931 Constituent Assembly, to which she and two other women were elected despite that Spanish women could not vote at the time. Her advocacy led to the inclusion of language in the 1931 constitution of Spain that guaranteed equality between men and women. She later lost her parliamentary seat and briefly served as a government minister before fleeing the country during the Spanish Civil War. Campoamor died in exile in Switzerland.

Biography[edit]

Clara Campoamor buried in Polloe Cemetery in San Sebastian, Spain

Campoamor was born in Madrid to a working-class family. She had to begin working as a seamstress at age 13, but continued to study part-time on the side, eventually seeking to pass the test that would guarantee her entry into law school.[1][2] In the interim, she worked her way up through a number of government positions, first with the Post Office in San Sebastián in 1909, then as a typing teacher in Madrid in 1914. As a teacher, she began to become involved in the Madrid political scene, taking a second job with a liberal newspaper.[2]

After successfully taking the law school entrance exam and entering the University of Madrid School of Law, Campoamor continued to work multiple jobs; as a teacher, as a secretary for the newspaper, and as a typist for the government. She also began writing political commentary and joined women's organizations.[2] After she earned her degree in 1924 at age 36 and entered practice, Campoamor began participating in debating and intellectual societies in Madrid.[1] Her practice specialized in issues affecting women, including paternity cases and issues related to marriage. She would champion these issues in the professional organizations she became a member of, and the International Federation of Women Lawyers that she helped found in 1928.[2]

Campoamor successfully advocated in 1927 for improvements to the child labor laws and electoral law changes. When it became legal for women to run for the Constituent Assembly that would write a new constitution in 1931, she stood for a seat and was elected despite her inability to vote in the election.[1]

Clara Campoamor is buried in Polloe Cemetery in San Sebastian, Spain.

She became the first woman to address the constituent assembly of Spain that October, in a speech warning the male members of the assembly that their continued exclusion of women from voting was a violation of natural law. Her strong advocacy for women's rights was opposed not only by political conservatives and conservative Roman Catholics but by men on the left and even one of only two other woman in the assembly, including Victoria Kent, who felt the time was not right to push for equality because she believed women would vote for right-wing parties.[1] When her own party decided to oppose women's suffrage, she left the party and continued to advocate for suffrage as an independent member of the assembly. Throughout her political career, she would insist that her main role was to be a spokesperson for women, and women's issues remained her primary concern. Despite her independent affiliation and the strong party system at that time, with the support of women's activists throughout Spain she was able to secure equal legal status for women in the new constitution.[2]

Following the assembly's drafting of the new constitution, Campoamor became a political outcast because of her outspoken advocacy and willingness to abandon her party on principle. She lost her seat in parliament in 1933, but was appointed Director of Public Welfare from 1933 to 1934. In 1936, as the rumblings of the Spanish Civil War brought violence to Madrid, she fled the country in fear for her life. Settling in Lausanne, Switzerland, she was barred from returning by Spain's Franco regime unless she gave up names of allies and publicly apologized for past statements against the Catholic Church. As an exile, she continued to write about feminism and her experiences in politics.[2]

Campoamor died in exile in 1972. Her ashes were repatriated and buried in San Sebastián.[2]

Women's suffrage[edit]

After proclaiming the Second Republic, Clara Campoamor was elected deputy of Madrid constituency in the 1931 elections (then women could be elected, but not electors) by the Radical Party. She had joined this party because it was "republican, liberal, secular and democratic" and followed her own political ideology.

She was part of the Constitutional Commission in charge of the preparation of the draft of the Constitution of the new republic composed of 21 deputies.

In that body, she fought against the sexual descrimination, for the legal equality of children born within and outside marriage, the right to divorce and the universal suffrage, often called "women's vote". She achieved everything except for the vote, which had to be debated in the courts of Spain.

The Left, with the exception of a group of Socialists and some Republicans, did not want women to vote because they were supposed to be heavily influenced by the Church and would vote in favor of the Right. Therefore, the Socialist Radical Party faced Clara with another recognized deputy, Victoria Kent, who was against the women's right to vote. The final debate on October 1 was a big event. Campoamor was considered the winner, and as a consequence, the adoption of the article 36, which enabled women's suffrage, was achieved with 161 votes in favor, 121 against. She was supported by most of the Socialist Party members -with some important exceptions like Indalecio Prieto - many of the right, almost all members of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya and small republican groups like the Progressives and the Association of Defense of the Republic. The Republican Action, the Socialist Radical Party and the Radical Party itself, except four other fellows, were positioned against her, and this was what displeased Clara the most.

Neither she nor Victoria Kent managed to renew their seats in the 1933 elections. In 1934, Clara Campoamor left the Radical Party because of its subordination to the CEDA and the excesses in the repression of the revolutionary insurrection in Asturias. In that same year, she tried (through the mediation of Santiago Casares Quiroga) to join the Republican Left, but her admission was denied. It was then she wrote and published -in May 1935- Mi pecado mortal.El voto femenino y yo, a real and personal testimony of her parliamentary struggles.

Historical memory[edit]

After the Spanish Transition, there were many tributes and recognitions which took place and were rated as poor by organizations in favour of women's equality. Various institutes, schools, cultural centers, women's associations, parks and streets got Clara Campoamor's name.

In 1998 the Ministry of Equality of Andalusian PSOE established Clara Campoamor Awards which are recognized annually. There is one per province and one especially dedicated to those individuals or groups that have been important in the defense of women's equality.

Similarly, in 2006 Madrid Town Hall created an award with her name, which in its first edition was given to the lawyer and feminist María Telo Núñez.

In 2006, there was the 75th anniversary of the women's right to vote in Spain. Due to that, some people made a campaign to ask for the recognition of the Congress of Deputies to the placement of a bust in its facilities. In November, the Socialist Party (PSOE) presented an informal proposal asking its Government that their equal policies will be reflected in the production of the euro. Clara Campoamor was the female figure chosen to appear on future euro coins, as the leading advocate of women's suffrage in the Second Republic. This proposal was finally approved on June 12, 2007 by the Congress, with the support of all parliamentary groups except the Conservative Party (PP), which abstained.

In 2007, the Ministry of Development launched the ship Polivalente B-32 "Clara Campoamor", named in her honor and operated by the Maritime Security and Rescue Society.

In 2011, due to the centenary of International Women's Day, the National Mint and Stamp produced a commemorative silver coin valued at 20 euros. This coin shows the picture of Clara Campoamor.

Quotes[edit]

  • The Republic, always the Republic, the best form of government to adjust to the natural evolution of peoples.[3]
  • I'm far from fascism and communism. I am a liberal. ("La revolución española vista por una republicana", Espuela de Plata Editions, 2005, p. 5)[4]

Filmography[edit]

Title Year Director
Clara Campoamor, la mujer olvidada 2011 Laura Mañá

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Rappaport, Helen (2001). Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers. ABC-CLIO. pp. 129–130. ISBN 1-57607-101-4. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Perez, Janet; Ihrie, Marie (2002). The Feminist Encyclopedia of Spanish Literature. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 94–98. ISBN 0-313-32444-1. 
  3. ^ "Clara Campoamor: sus grandes frases" – via La voz de Galicia. 
  4. ^ Campoamor, Clara; Miranda, Neus Samblancat (2002-01-01). La revolución española vista por una republicana (in Spanish). Univ. Autònoma de Barcelona. ISBN 9788449022432.