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Free Women and AMA

ASSOCIATIONS AND THEIR MAGAZINES

Free Women

Carlos Pérez de Rozas, Que el pasado se hunda en la nada. Exposición de Mujeres Libres, 10 de agosto de 1938. Arxiu Fotográfic de Barcelona

Pérez de Rozas, Let the Past Sink into The Void. Exhibition by Free Women, 10 August 1938. Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona

Mujeres Libres, or Free Women, was an organisation founded in 1936, largely by anarchist women workers who defended anti-fascism and social revolution, but without losing sight of women’s protests and demands. Inheriting the ideas of Teresa Claramunt, the federation would come to gain 25,000 members in the Civil War years, a total of 147 groups across the whole Spanish State. Their declared primary goal was “to emancipate women from the triple enslavement to which they have been subjected: ignorance, as women, and as producers,” [1] and their gender perspective never dissipated. In their endeavours to position themselves as an independent feminist organisation from the National Confederation of Labour (CNT) and Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), they were not supported by anarchist figures such as Federica Montseny, who was not an advocate of establishing the feminist struggle from a separate front.     

Actividades de la F. N. Mujeres Libres [fotomontaje de Carlos Pérez de Rozas]. Madrid / Barcelona: Mujeres Libres, [1937?]. España. Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte. Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica. FA-00078

Activities by Free Women. Madrid / Barcelona: Mujeres Libres, (1937?), (photomontage by Pérez de Rozas). Spain. Ministry of Culture and Sport. Documentary Centre of Historical Memory. FA-00078

Through the initiative of Mercedes Comaposada, Amparo Poch y Gascón and Lucía Sánchez Saornil, from May 1936 to the Autumn of 1938, 13 issues of the magazine Mujeres Libres were published. The heading started with a predominantly cultural and formative approach and evolved to take a more combative stance, with the war and revolution holding greater sway by the fourth issue. The publication’s different sections were organised from the editorial board: work and unionism by Lucía Sánchez Saornil; culture by Mercedes Comaposada; health and sexuality by Amparo Poch y Gascón; and childhood by Carmen Conde. The texts published in the magazine were written solely by women, although the visual content featured collaborations with male artists such as Cándido Méndez Mazas, Máximo Viejo, and particularly Baltasar Lobo. As in many other publications of the time, photography played a major role and was produced by photographers such as Kati Horna, Margaret Michaelis and Carlos Pérez de Rozas, among others.  


[1] Mary Nash (ed.), Free Women: Spain 1936–1939, Barcelona, Tusquets, 1975, p. 67

AMA

The Association of Anti-fascist Women (AMA) was the largest women’s organisation during the Civil War, with members estimated to total around 65,000. Although its origin and orientation was communist, its aim was to group together the largest possible number of women, without distinguishing between ideologies, to join forces in the fight against fascism. As a consequence, AMA defined itself as transpolitical or multi-party and was structured with other organisations such as the Union of Girls, the Women’s Union of Catalonia and the National Alliance of Young Women.

Encarnación Fuyola, Mujeres antifascistas, su trabajo y su organización. Valencia: Ediciones de las Mujeres Antifascistas, [1937]. España. Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte. Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica.

Encarnación Fuyola. Anti-Fascist Women, Their Work and Organisation. Valencia: Ediciones de las Mujeres Antifascistas, (1936). Spain. Ministry of Culture and Sport. Documentary Centre of Historical Memory. F-00532

With a centralised structure — a National Board chaired by Dolores Ibárruri and three successive general secretaries: Lina Odena, Encarnación Fuyola, Emilia Elías — and with provincial committees forming the backbone, AMA’s main means of dissemination and propaganda was the magazine Mujeres (Women). The publication was edited from three cities: Madrid (1936), Bilbao (1937) and Valencia (1937). In the last of these offices Passion Flower: the Magazine of Anti-Fascist Women of Valencia, 1937, was also published and was directed by artist Manuela Ballester and illustrated with the contributions of Elisa Piqueras and José Bardasano.

2.ª Conferencia Nacional de Mujeres Antifascistas, 29-30 y 31 octubre 1937. [¿Valencia?]: Altavoz del Frente. Taller de Artes Plásticas, 1937. España. Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte. Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica

Luis (Luis Fernández Clemente), 2nd National Conference of Anti-Fascist Women, 29–30 and 31 October 1937. (Valencia?): Altavoz del Frente. Taller de Artes Plásticas, 1937. Spain. Ministry of Culture and Sport. Documentary Centre of Historical Memory

The Mujeres magazine, with an initial sub-heading of “Periodical of Women Fighting for Peace, Liberty and Progress”, was characterised by visual content based on photographic language and featured images of strong and hard-working women. Although the AMA programme brought together many aspects related to equality for women, the main goal was to pool forces to win the war, showing fascism as a danger to homes and families. The Soviet example was often used as a source of inspiration and the visual language of Russian magazines and posters was also emulated. However, questions remain over the extent to which the image of a new, modern woman was strengthened or, conversely, the extent to which traditional stereotypes were perpetuated.