Victoria Kent Siano was a Spanish lawyer, politician and jurist, who was born on March 6, 1891, in Malaga, Spain. At age 15, in 1906, she began studying at the Escuela Normal De Magisterio de Málaga, graduating as a teacher in 1911.
At the age of 26 he went to study law at the Complutense University of Madrid, where he graduated in 1924. Immediately, he enrolled in the Madrid Bar Association, where he became the first collegiate lawyer in Spain.
He also joined the ranks of the Republican Radical Socialist Party (PRRS). He had the opportunity to defend Álvaro de Albornoz, when he was accused of a crime of conspiracy against the State and got him acquitted. For that performance, he was recognized as the first woman to appear before a court of war.
In 1931 she was named member of the Royal Academy of Spanish Jurisprudence and Legislation.
Representing PRRS, she was elected deputy in the Republican Courts by the Province of Madrid from 1931 to 1933 and by the Province of Jaén from 1936 to 1939. It was named Director General of Prisons in May 1931, when he was already 40 years old and held this position for more than a year.
Since she considered that the lack of training of women did not guarantee support for the Republic, she opposed the female vote on equal terms with men against Clara Campoamor.
He made the call “Kent Amendment”To the Spanish Constitution of 1931.
When the Spanish Civil War ended, she went into exile to France, then to Mexico and finally to New York. She was an avant-garde woman, with advanced ideas for her time, which many times caused her to be misunderstood.
He died on September 25, 1987, in New York, United States, at the age of 96.
Victoria Kent as Director General of Prisons
From April 19, 1931 to June 8, 1932, he served as Director General of Prisons introducing some reforms, such as:
- Improve the diet of inmates
- Grant freedom of worship in prisons
- Extend permits for family reasons
- Create a female corps of female prison officers
- Remove shackles and chains from prisoners.
Likewise, among his achievements in the position we have:
- It closed 114 prisons, for not having the appropriate conditions for its function.
- With the idea of dignifying the condition of prison women for their subsequent social reintegration, he ordered the construction of the “Sales Women Jail” in Madrid.
- Also, he had the “Institute of Penale Studiess ”, directed by Jiménez de Asúa, who was his professor at the Law School.
From this stage, his innovative ideas to improve the lives of prisoners in prisons stand out:
- His new concept of prisoner, by improving hygiene conditions in prisons and considering the particular situation of women.
- The secular character he gave to the prison employees, by replacing the Sisters of Charity.
- His work for a real reintegration of the prisoner into society, by facing prisoners and improving personal treatment.
Victoria Kent failed to get all of her prison reforms approved, so she resigned from office on June 8, 1932.
The exile of Victoria Kent
In 1939, at the end of the Spanish Civil War, Victoria Kent began her exile. And while he was on his way to the French border, he accompanied the sons of the soldiers who were fighting at the front.
Already in Paris, she was named First Secretary of the Spanish Embassya, where she continued to take care of refugee children, being responsible for creating nurseries and shelters.
He also collaborated with the Spanish exiles by supporting their departure to the United States.
In 1940, when the Nazis occupied Paris, Victoria Kent was a refugee in the Mexican Embassy for a time.
As she was on the Franco regime’s black list, in October 1943, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison, with political disqualification and the impossibility of returning to Spain.
In 1948 she traveled to Mexico, creating a Training School for Prison Personnel, where she was the director, while teaching Criminal Law at the university.
In 1950 he went to New York, where he fixed his permanent residence, after being claimed by the UN to work in the Social Defense Section. There, Victoria Kent carried out, among other things, a study on the state of prisons in Latin America.
From 1951 to 1957, she was Minister without portfolio of the Government of the Second Spanish Republic from exile, being the second woman to hold the post. Through the financial support of her friend Louise Crane, she founded the Iberian Magazine in New York, where she will work until she is 83 years old.
Victoria Kent and the Iberian Magazine
The Iberian Magazine is what is considered his most important work, since he was directing it since it was founded in New York in 1954. The Magazine was aimed at Spanish exiles, in order to maintain an opposition to dictatorial regimes. Therefore, all the Spanish collaborators worked using pseudonyms.
He developed an important work from the direction of the Iberian Magazine, where he was in charge for 20 years, until 1974.
Victoria Kent Publications
Within the Victoria Kent posts We find a great variety of literary styles to express their ideas in the different areas where it was developed:
- “Four Years In Paris (1940-1944) ”, This book, published in 1947, is her testimony of what she lived while hiding in Paris after the Nazi invasion, fleeing from Francoism and the Gestapo.
- “Four years of my life”, Published in 1978.
- “From Madrid to New York”, In this publication of Editorial Renacimiento, unpublished articles, the texts of her lectures and letters from Victoria Kent are collected.
His essays dealt with the rights of women, the harsh conditions of the prisons and the lack of education of the people, among others.
He wrote two letters related to Pablo Picasso. In one, he narrates his relationship with the painter during exile and in the other, called “Picasso: a sidereal destiny”, he pays homage to the centenary of the artist’s birth.
His first publication was the text of his lecture at the International Student Congress in Prague representing the National Union of Spanish Students.
Likewise, some of his lectures were published as a result of his activity as Director General of Prisons.
The social contributions of Victoria Kent for the lives of women are absolutely outstanding, because she was a pioneer in many fields, which were until that moment, of male dominance.
And although he opposed granting the right to vote to women, during the writing of the Spanish Constitution of 1931. His opposition was basically due to his great defense of the Republic, which he considered could be lost by the votes of women who They had no education, no political training.
One of the biggest democratic contributions Victoria Kent’s was her work while the 1931 Spanish Constitution, better known as the “Kent Amendment”, was being drafted.
Victoria Kent’s collaboration included important modifications, including the changes in the wording of the following articles:
“Spain is a Republic of workers, liberal in principle, democratic in foundation and social in orientation. The civil power, the only one that exists, comes from the people. All authority and social hierarchy is subordinate to him. ”
In this case, everything suggested was approved, except “only one that exists.”
He said: “No one can be compelled to testify about their religious confession” to which he added: “nor will these beliefs influence any kind of civil relations.”
Articles 39 and 40
He suggested modifications to these articles in relation to: social issues, deportation and exile.