Phyllis Burrows Turnbull, more commonly known in Spain as Miss Fillis, was a professor in Department of Spanish at Bryn Mawr College, and the creator of the “Center for Hispanic Studies” of Bryn Mawr College. Turnbull was romantically linked to Spanish writer Gloria Fuertes, with their relationship lasting 15 years. The two met when Turnbull was Fuertes’ English teacher, and Turnbull would later assist Fuertes in becoming a Fulbright scholar. Their love was such that Fuertes never fully recovered from the blow of her death, mourning her until her own dying days.
This is a very short route, with really only two specific stops. One is inside Madrid and the other is outside. In theory, it can be done via public transportation if you have the time, patience and motivation.
The route starts at Calle de Miguel Ángel in Almagro, Chamberí where the couple meter. It continues to Lavapies, where the Turnbull lived with Gloria Fuertes.
You could drive this but really not worth it given city traffic. The best option is either to take the number 27 bus or line 1 of the metro. The metro requires a bit of a walk either way. As the couple lived in the barrio of Lavapies, it is worth spending time there and exploring it.
After you’ve gotten a good feel of Lavapies and seen some of the places featured on the Ruta de Gloria Fuertes Lavapies, the route continues north to Soto del Real. The town has a population of around 9,000 people and is at an elevation of 921 meters. It is bordered by Manzanares el Real in the west, Miraflores de la Sierra to the east, Rascafría to the north and Colmenar Viejo to the south. It is about a 45-minute drive from Lavapies depending on the route and traffic. The M-607 route avoids the worst of urban driving. The most direct route using public transit is to take the C4 train from the Sol Cercanais station to Colmenar Viejo, and then getting off and picking up the 720 Interurbano bus. Each leg is about 40 minutes. Calle Señorita Phyllis B. Turnbull is a short 5 minute walk from the bus stop.
See in Madrid
Lavapies is a historic ward in the barrio of Embajadores. Starting in the 1970s and accelerating into the 1990s, it became the neighborhood of lesbians in Madrid, the lesbian equivalent of Chueca. Lesbians were attracted to the barrio because, unlike Chueca, it was often much more affordable to live in; this was important as lesbians have historically had less purchasing power in Spain than our gay male counterparts. It is in this barrio that Gloria Fuertes spent her youth and parts of her adult life. It was a place where, because Francoism was not very concerned with female homosexuals, Fuertes could walk hand in hand with her American girlfriend Phyllis Turnbull without attracting undue attention. While Fuertes sometimes lived elsewhere, she often revisited it in her writing in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. People in the ward are very proud to claim Fuertes, and often celebrate historic anniversaries related to the author. Guided tours of Lavapies with a focus on the author are offered by various guides.
Instituto Internacional de Madrid was a school in the barrio of Almagro. They finished construction on their Boston building, located on Calle de Miguel Ángel, in 1910; funds were initially raised for its construction in January 1903. The first director was Wellesley graduate Susan Huntington, and the school developed a close relationship with Residencia de Señoritas and the Instituto-Escuela. Among its students was Elena Fortún, who studied library science. Another student was Gloria Fuertes, who enrolled in 1953 to study English and library science. There, in 1955, she met Phyliss Turnbull, one of her English teachers. Their meeting started a 15-year relationship between the two, only ending in 1970, a year before Turnbull’s death in 1971.
See in the Comunidad de Madrid
During the 1960s, Gloria Fuertes and Phyllis Turnbull shared a house in Soto del Real. They had commissioned the house’s construction by Matilde Ucelay, the first Spanish woman architect. Turnbull had introduced Fuertes to the Fulbright Scholarship which allowed the couple to spend three years together in the United States. These years were some of the happiest for both women. When her scholarship ended, the couple returned to Soto del Real. The return though caused a rupture in the couple’s relationship, with periods of separation. Despite these ruptures, they always remained in contact. It was during one of these breaks that Turnbull died of cancer. Fuertes was heartbroken and lost a lot of weight in the year following her death. Following her death, Fuerte’s new philosophy in life was “La vida es una mierda de vaca de la que tenemos que hacer un pastel de manzana” which translates to “Life is cow shit from which we have to make an apple pie.” Fuertes was so depressed that she wrote that she contemplated suicide, “Fui al metro decidida a matarme, pero al ir a sacar el billete ligué, y en vez de tirarme al tren me tiré a la taquillera.” This translates to “I went to the subway determined to kill myself, but when I went to get the ticket I flirted, and instead of jumping on the train I threw myself at the ticket office. “
Calle Señorita Phyllis Turnbull is a street in the municipality named after the American academic and writer Phyllis B. Turnbull. She spent many years in Madrid, and was the long time love of Gloria Fuertes. The street was renamed in her honor in the 1990s.
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