Lucía Sánchez Saornil
|Lucía Sánchez Saornil|
Lucía Sánchez Saornil in 1933
13 December 1895|
2 June 1970 (aged 74)|
Lucía Sánchez Saornil (born 13 December 1895 in Madrid – died 2 June 1970 in Valencia), was a Spanish poet, militant anarchist and feminist. She is best known as one of the founders of Mujeres Libres and served in the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) and Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista (SIA).
Raised by her impoverished, widowed father, Lucía attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. At a young age she began writing poetry and associated herself with the emerging Ultraist literary movement. By 1919, she had been published in a variety of journals, including Los Quijotes, Tableros, Plural, Manantial and La Gaceta Literaria. Working under a male pen name, she was able to explore lesbian themes at a time when homosexuality was criminalized and subject to censorship and punishment.
In 1931, Lucía Sánchez Saornil, who had been working as a telephone operator since 1916, participated in a strike by the anarcho-syndicalist labor union, Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), against Telefónica. The event was a turning point in her life, serving as an entry into political activism. From this point forward, Lucía dedicated herself to the struggle for anarchist social revolution.
In 1933, Lucía was appointed Writing Secretary for the CNT of Madrid, producing their journal in the run up to the Spanish Civil War. In May 1938, she became the General Secretary of the Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista (SIA), an anarchist aid organization similar to the Red Cross.
Writing in anarchist publications such as Earth and Freedom, the White Magazine and Workers' Solidarity, Lucía outlined her perspective as a feminist. Although quiet on the subject of birth control, she attacked the essentialism of gender roles in Spanish society. In this way, Lucía established herself as one of the most radical of voices among anarchist women, rejecting the ideal of female domesticity which remained largely unquestioned. In a series of articles for Workers' Solidarity, she boldly refuted Gregorio Marañón's identification of motherhood as the nucleus of female identity.
Dissatisfied with the chauvinistic prejudices of fellow republicans, Lucía Sánchez Saornil joined with two compañeras, Mercedes Comaposada and Amparo Poch y Gascón, to form Mujeres Libres in 1936. Mujeres Libres was an autonomous anarchist organization for women committed to a "double struggle" of women's liberation and social revolution. Lucía and other "Free Women" rejected the dominant view that gender equality would emerge naturally from a classless society. As the Spanish Civil War exploded, Mujeres Libres quickly grew to 30,000 members, organizing women's social spaces, schools, newspapers and daycare programs.
In 1937, while working in Valencia as the editor of the journal Threshold, Lucía met América Barroso, who would become her lifelong partner.
Exile and hiding
With the defeat of the Second Republic, Lucía and América were forced to flee to Paris, where Lucía continued her involvement in the SIA. With the fall of France to German forces, it was soon necessary for them to move again and they returned to Madrid in 1941 or 1942.
In Madrid, Lucía worked as a photo editor but quickly had to relocate again after being recognized as an anarchist partisan. She and América moved to Valencia where América had family. Due to the rise of fascism and Catholic moralism, their lesbian relationship now put them at significant personal danger and was maintained in secrecy. During this time, América worked in the Argentine consulate while Lucía continued her work as an editor until her death from cancer in 1970. During this time, her poetry demonstrates her mixed outlook, embracing both the pain of defeat and the affirmation of struggle. She left behind no memoir.
Lucía's tombstone epitaph reads, "But is it true that hope has died?" ("¿Pero es verdad que la esperanza ha muerto?").
- "R. Fue una época transgresora, emergió el feminismo y la libertad sexual estuvo en el candelero. Hay rastreos de muchas lesbianas escritoras: Carmen Conde[primera académica de número], Victorina Durán, Margarita Xirgu, Ana María Sagi, la periodista Irene Polo, Lucía Sánchez Saornil, fundadora de Mujeres Libres[sección feminista de CNT]... Incluso existía un círculo sáfico en Madrid como lugar de encuentro y tertulia.P. ¿Se declaraban lesbianas?R. Había quien no se escondía mucho, como Polo o Durán, pero lesbiana era un insulto, algo innombrable. Excepto los poemas homosexuales de Sánchez Saornil, sus textos no eran explícitos para poder publicarlos, así que hay que reinterpretarlos.""Tener referentes serios de lesbianas elimina estereotipos" by Juan Fernandez at El Pais
- Ackelsberg, Martha A. Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1991.
- Enders and Radcliff. Constructing Spanish womanhood: female identity in modern Spain. SUNY Press, 1999.
- Linhard, Tabea Alexa. Fearless women in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War. University of Missouri Press, 2005.
- Nash, Mary. Defying Male Civilization: Women in the Spanish Civil War. Denver, CO.: Arden Press, 1995.