Clara Campoamor

Clara Campoamor: the fight for the female vote

Every day, the fight for gender equality in the world grows stronger, advances further and expands to reach more places. Despite this, there are parts of the world where certain rights of women are conditioned or denied. A few years ago, this was the case with women’s suffrage.

The fight for the female vote It has been one of the most successful, because today only 1 of 194 sovereign countries refuses it (Vatican City) and only 2 condition it (Brunei and the United Arab Emirates).

But success is not synonymous with easy. In most countries this fight has taken years and years of proposals, many leaders, protests and demands before seeing its fruits, and Spain is no exception.

One of the most important figures in this struggle in the country is Clara Campoamor. A writer who defended with all her strength her beliefs, her ideals and demanded her rights as no woman had done before. Its history is closely linked to politics and the female vote in Spain.

Clara Campoamor had to climb with a lot of effort until she became the mother of women’s suffrage in Spain. However, at present he is not recognized with the notoriety he deserves, and he is not taken as an important character for his country, so his story ends up being ignored.

Who was Clara Campoamor?

Clara Campoamor Rodríguez was born on February 12, 1988 in Madrid, Spain. His mother was a seamstress named María Pilar Rodríguez and his father was an accountant: Manuel Campoamor. This marriage had three children, of which only two survived. Clara’s only brother was Ignacio Campoamor, whose history with politics is somewhat murky.

During her first years of life, Clara had access to education. But this ended when she was 13 years old because, when her father passed away, she had to work to help with the household finances.

Laboral life

Her first job was as a dressmaker, as her mother’s assistant. After this she went on to work as a shop assistant while taking care of answering her phone calls. The latter was what led him to seek employment options in the telegraph corps of the Ministry of the Interior, where he managed to be an assistant to the female body.

Having a job in a State institution made Clara Campoamor aware of all the problems that society was experiencing at that time, which prompted her to focus her efforts on trying to solve them.

When she was promoted to the Ministry of Public Institution, she dedicated herself to teaching at the Adult School, being a shorthand and typing teacher. Since he also got under the first opposition contest of this Ministry, just as he got his post as auxiliary telegraph.

During 1914 and 1920, Clara served as a special teacher while translating texts from French into Spanish. In addition, she served as a typing assistant in the Ministry itself and was secretary to Salvador Cánovas Cervantes, director of La Tribuna, a conservative newspaper that allowed Clara to make publications from time to time.

Her publications attracted the attention of other newspapers, such as Nuevo Heraldo, El Sol and El Tiempo, and they offered her spaces on their pages, which made her a recurring contributor to them.

Overcoming and leadership

In these 6 years, Clara managed to save enough money to be able to continue with her high school education at the age of 32, to later be able to study a university degree.

Thanks to all that learned working with great political figures From the panorama of that time, Clara Campoamor decided to study Law at the Complutense University of Madrid, where she graduated in 1924.

In Spain there were very few female lawyers practicing their profession, since this area, like almost all the others, was dominated by the male gender. In fact, before Campoamor registered and joined the Madrid Bar in 1925, only one woman had managed to do this: pioneer Victoria Kent.

Victoria Kent

Being more than ready to practice, the lawyer Clara Campoamor surrounded herself with important political figures while she was shaping her socialist ideals and female emancipation. Ideals that grew when verifying that the number of women in their position was low and did not agree with such gender inequality.

This was the reason why she did not miss the opportunity to run in 1931 to be elected to Parliament. Something that became possible when the Second Spanish Republic modified its electoral laws so that women could be elected to the Congress of Deputies.

He entered Parliament through the Radical Party with leftist ideals, whose slogan or motto were adjectives that resonated with Clara’s way of thinking: “republican, liberal, secular and democratic.”

He wanted to show that women had the ability to be in positions of power like any other man, and he succeeded. She was one of three women who were elected: she, Victoria Kent and Margaret Nelken.

Campoamor, Kent and Nelken

When she began her work as a deputy in Parliament sessions, Clara continued to notice the inefficiencies and discrimination of the laws for society itself. This situation led her to exercise her position with much more seriousness to solve the problems of citizens.

Women’s vote: a fight between equals

The Congress of Deputies allowed the inclusion of women in its seats, but did not allow any woman in Spain the right to vote to choose their representatives.

This was one of Campoamor’s main criticisms and it became one of his proposals for the project of the Constitutional Commission of the new Republic (a project that he helped to draft), along with 20 other motions from different deputies.

Among the most talked about and most important proposals of Clara were legal equality for all children, whether they were born in or out of marriage, and divorce. In addition to equal rights for men and women, universal voting and non-discrimination.

Clara Campoamor’s arguments and speeches had the ability to connect with each person, so most of her proposals were accepted except for the equal rights regarding suffrage. This proposal was controversial and Parliament had no choice but to leave the debate in the hands of the Spanish courts.

“You cannot come here to legislate, to vote taxes, to dictate duties, to legislate on the human race, on the woman and on the child, isolated, outside of us.”

Clara Campoamor and Victoria Kent: two sides of the same coin

The conflict of interests came into play when Victoria Kent and Clara Campoamor, the first two female lawyers in Spain, took different sides on the same issue while under the same political ideal. Each represented one side of the same coin in the October 1, 1931 debate on the female vote.

On the one hand, Clara supported her own proposal and defended it very well with her speeches. It explained that if men had the right to choose their leaders, and often made the wrong decision, women should likewise have the right to make mistakes, and that “freedom is learned by exercising it.”

And on the other hand, Victoria Kent took a position that would not affect her ideals and that, ultimately, was also flattering for her gender.

Victoria advocated delaying universal suffrage, arguing that allowing the female vote at that point would be defeat for left-wing ideals, as women might be more attracted to right-wing ideas.

Among the reasons for delaying the female vote, Victoria established that Spanish women did not have enough experience to vote, or not all. It said that women must go through a period of university education to broaden their thoughts and be “released into their consciousness.”

The Cortes of Spain gave the reason to Campoamor, with 161 members voting in favor of his speech, against the 121 members supporting the defense of Victoria Kent. The first time that women cast their votes at the polls would be in the parliamentary elections of November 19, 1933.

First elections with female votes

One of the most impressive phrases in Clara’s speech was “I feel like a citizen before I am a woman”, recognizing the role that women could play if they were not marginalized before the decisions of society.

In the parliamentary elections of November 19, 1933, almost seven million women participated, all over 23 years of age, who put their citizenship above their sex to assert their voices and choose the deputies who would represent them in Parliament.

This was a victory for the fight for equality and for Clara Campoamor. Although his victory would not last long. The results of those elections left her out of Parliament as well as her opponent of the debate, Victoria Kent. Single Margaret Nelken she was re-elected to continue her position in the Congress of Deputies.

Aftermath of the elections

Also in these elections, a majority with right-wing ideals won, just as Kent had said in his speech. But the victory of the right was due to the fact that it was uniting more and more, which boosted confidence in these ideals, while the left presented differences between its parties.

However, the public eye agreed with Victoria Kent’s speech and did not hesitate to blame women as well as Clara Campoamor, who accepted defeat along with her departure from Congress.

She did not give up and continued to fight for the rights of citizens, now in her position as General Director of Charity. But this position would occupy him less than a year, until he decided to resign due to having great differences with his boss.

In 1934 he tried to be part of the Republican Left to continue leading political life, but Clara already had a stain on her name. The decision to integrate her into the party was made through a public vote, the result of which was negative.

Leaving Spain as a method of survival

In 1935 Clara published a personal testimony in which she recounted and recounted each of her struggles in Parliament and made her ideals clear, with the intention of clearing her name from the negative connotations left by her political life.

And in 1936, when the Popular Front (an entity formed by several political parties with views of the left) won, none of the people who blamed it for being the cause of the victory of the right in Parliament said anything, but they did celebrate the new victory.

In July 1936 a coup d’état broke out and the Civil War against the Second Republic began in Spain. Fact that triggered a massive migration of Spaniards to other countries to evade the war.

Thus, Clara Campoamor went through various destinations: Paris, Buenos Aires … where she dedicated herself to publishing and translating texts while the situation in her native country calmed down completely.

Final exile

It was not until 1950-1951 that he decided to return to Spain with the illusion of continuing his life in his homeland, but he was denied entry due to his religious beliefs. Once again, his country was affected by discrimination towards specific groups.

Clara was accused of belonging to a Masonic lodge and was prosecuted. Franco’s police had a way of dealing with them: they proposed to expose other Freemasons or they faced a 12-year prison sentence. And following her convictions, Clara decides to stay in exile rather than abandon her ideals.

After this moment, Clara went to Lausanne (Switzerland) where she started working in a law firm belonging to Antoinette Quinche, until she lost her sight. She passed away on April 30, 1972 of cancer. Although her life was involved in politics, her legacy took the direction of a social movement. There is no doubt that Clara Campoamor is a representative figure of the force of spirit, of the belief in the own ideals and of the fight by the equality. At present, she is a feminist icon of the universal vote and without discrimination in Spain.

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