'Modern, fighters and pioneers' rescues the role of women in the "Silver Age" of Alicante

"Josefina Pascual is an extraordinary case in her time.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
17 March 2023 Friday 22:44
47 Reads
'Modern, fighters and pioneers' rescues the role of women in the "Silver Age" of Alicante

"Josefina Pascual is an extraordinary case in her time. She was one of the pioneers in professional and research work in the discipline of Pharmacy in Spain." This is explained by Helena Establier, director of the University Institute for Gender Studies Research, who together with Mónica Moreno, a professor of Contemporary History, has coordinated the book Modernas, luchadoras y pioneeras; Alicante women in the Silver Age, edited by the Mediterranean Foundation and the University of Alicante.

With the participation of numerous firms, the work exhibits ten biographies of as many women whose activity was relevant to the accelerated modernization process that the city and province of Alicante experienced in the last decades of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th, when the commercial push of the port and the industrial dynamism of various economic sectors was accompanied in Alicante by thriving intellectual and artistic movements that led to its so-called "Silver Age".

The story of Josefina Pascual opens the volume because her field, science, was the least propitious for a woman to stand out at a time when the prejudice still persisted that the capacity for abstraction and the articulation of complex thought were not considered qualities characteristic of females.

However, born in 1899, Josefina Pascual Devesa not only brilliantly completed her Pharmacy degree at the Complutense University of Madrid, but also, with a scholarship from the Board of Expansion of Studies, trained at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, concluding with excellence a international doctorate on the tuberculosis vaccine in 1928.

And despite the fact that such training opened the doors to a professional future far from his land, he chose to develop his career there, running the family pharmacy and contributing his knowledge to the Municipal Childcare Institute, or setting up an analysis laboratory in Valencia while She worked as the mother of a large family.

Although art was a field more open to the female presence, the women who entered it were often belittled, as if their work had less importance. Elena Santonja's is an exceptional case, because she participated in numerous exhibitions inside and outside Alicante together with artists such as Emilio Varela, Lorenzo Aguirre or Daniel Bañuls.

Another singular case is that of Remedios Picó, "the poetess monovera", the only woman from Alicante of her time who managed to publish two books of verses (Flores de mi locura and El libro de los cien sonnetos) and regularly include them in the Spanish press. The time. She was also a writer Mercedes de Vargas de Chambó, one of the most prominent Freemasons and one of the great defenders of women's education. She dared to participate in the Alicante lodge with the symbolic name Joan of Arc, and wrote numerous articles in which she criticized religious fanaticism and positioned herself in favor of the progress of women.

The book shows how the field of education was one of the fields that provided the most space for women at the time. Catalina García Trejo del Campo, a Catholic woman, belonging to the social elite and committed to the Primo de Rivera regime, upon becoming the first councilor of Alicante, together with Cándida Gimeno and María del Socorro Solanich, stood out on the other hand in her pedagogical work, by introducing advances such as outdoor education, hygiene, interclass coeducation and children's camps.

Highly recognized in Alcoi, the work dedicates a chapter to Amalia García Miralles, who, coming from a humble background, became a benchmark for female education in the city that, immersed in the midst of an industrial boom, showed deficiencies in its public education system. that she helped to supply. A widow with five children, she was able to direct several educational institutions, establish the San Jorge Hospice, take charge of the kitchen of the Patronato del Carmen or direct the Alcoyan school colonies between 1925 and 1927.

In decades of strong political tensions, it is not surprising that the work pays attention to women of diverse, even conflicting, ideologies. Luisa Gómez de Tortosa, from New York who came from a wealthy background, came to hold the position of president of the Confederation of Women of Catholic Action on a national scale from 1936 until well into the Franco period. And she, from a strong religious conviction, she promoted the creation of women's professional schools to train low-income workers.

From a very different environment came two workers from the tobacco factory in Alicante, two cigarette makers: Carmen Martínez and Asunción Lledó, leaders in the struggle of the working class in years of intense worker awareness and union activity in which women they played a fundamental role, often obscured by the added discrimination that condemned them to occupy a secondary role.

That postponement was experienced in the first person by the last protagonist of the work, Manolita Luque Albalá. Although she was from Madrid by birth, she developed all of her political activity in Alicante, heading the Izquierda Republicana Femenina. She was a modern and transgressive woman, an ardent defender of women's political participation, measuring herself in different forums with some of the most recognized Republicans of that time, such as Lorenzo Carbonell or Eliseo Gómez Serrano.

Victoria Kent, the prominent Republican leader, during a visit to Alicante, stayed at Luque's house, who introduced her at a rally. In 1939, the Republican from Alicante, who, although she tried, was never able to occupy spaces of power in the formations in which she was a member, went into exile first to North Africa and then to Mexico, where she lost track of herself.

In short, Modernas, luchadoras y pioneeras is only a first step, but an important one, in revealing a local history hidden behind the shadow of oblivion: that of those women who knew how to overcome the enormous obstacles that a macho society placed between them. and freedom of action and thought.