Repository: Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Creator: Mujeres Libres
Contributor: Sociedad General de Publicaciones, Empresa Colectivizada
Fond or Collection
Col.lecció Cartells del Pavelló de la República (UB)
Repository and Location
Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Barcelona, Spain
Where the military rebellion of 18 July was defeated, women found themselves with many opportunities to contribute to the Republican war effort. Initially these included the possibility of joining one of the many militias that emerged to fight against the uprising. The tolerance of political and union organizations for women fighters turned out to be short lived across the entire political spectrum in the Republican zone, and women were soon being encouraged to return to more traditional roles.
This poster issued by the Antifascist Women’s Groupings (AMA), the largest women’s organization in Republican Spain, illustrates this narrowing of vision. The AMA was founded in 1933 as the Spanish affiliate of the Comintern’s Women against War and Fascism. Despite its Communist origins and the key role played by Dolores Ibarruri, the AMA always engaged women from other parties. During the Civil War its leadership included such key figures as Socialist Margarita Nelken and Republican Victoria Kent, but the Communists always retained control. A number of other women’s organizations joined the AMA during the war. The AMA also benefited from the support of the Republican government, which put it in charge of a Defence Ministry committee to help coordinate women’s activities in the rearguard. It came to have more than 60,000 members. The anarchist organization Free Women, with its 25,000-members, emphasized a feminist agenda over the antifascism of the AMA and always kept its distance.
The poster’s text addresses women directly. “You woman… you women, can do a lot. The ANTIFASCIST WOMEN fight and work at the front and in the rear guard. Come with us. It doesn’t matter if you are a Communist, Socialist, Anarchist, Republican, or not a member of any party. A common denominator unites us: the hatred of fascism! Workers, peasants, intellectuals, just women! Mothers!” It concludes with an appeal to women’s most important role of all: motherhood. “Join the ANTIFASCIST WOMENS’ GROUPS that fight unceasingly for the Spain of tomorrow, for a glowing future for your children.” The images show women performing activities such as knitting, sewing, and agricultural tasks that were considered typically female or as textile workers, teachers and nurses, more modern roles that were considered extensions of the traditional gender model. No women appear in such masculine settings as heavy industry or armaments, although they actually did work in the latter. Bearing arms is clearly out of the question.
This position was widely shared. Posters put out by the Popular Army cast women as seductresses who caused venereal diseases, which they described as the equivalent of desertion and as dangerous as enemy bullets. Even Free Women, the most radical on women’s issues, called on women not to bear arms. In September 1936 it published an article titled “Men to the Front, Women to Work.”