Ruta de Círculo Sáfico de Madrid: The Women

The following is a compilation of some short biographies about members of Círculo Sáfico de Madrid, a group of lesbians in Spain active between about 1910 and 1935 who changed and shape both Spanish culture and political life. There are names that, if you have studied Spanish history, you should definitely be familiar with. There are also others who you likely do not know but should.

The Women

Consuelo Berges Rabago

Consuelo Berges Rabago was a journalist, writer, biographer and translator in the Second Spanish Republic period. She was also a member of the Círculo Sáfico de Madrid.

Berges was born in 1899 in Ucieda to a single mother, whose Jewish family was full of freethinkers and Republicans. As a child, she did not attend school but was educated in the home instead. When she was 15, Berges moved to Santander to live with her paternal family and prepare for the entrance exams for Escuela Normal de Maestras. From there, she ended up working in Cabezón de la Sal at Academia de Torre. While living and working in the town, she met Víctor de la Serna who assisted in starting her journalist career, writing for the Santander afternoon newspaper de la Serna founded, La Región, in 1924 under the pseudonym Yasnaia Poliana. From there, Berges went on to write for a number of other publicans including El Sol, La Nación of Buenos Aires, and the Revista de las Españas. Her sometimes controversial opinions brought her into a circle of notables of the period including Clara Campoamor, Ricardo Baeza, Eulalia Galvarriato, Concha Méndez, Azorín, José Ortega y Gasset, Rosa Chacel, Waldo Frank, Francisco Ayala, María Zambrano, Max Nordau, and Rafael Cansinos-Asséns. Two years later, Berges left Spain for Arequipa, Peru in December 1926 after growing tired of the political environment of Dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera. Living with her cousin Julia Gutierrez, she worked as a teacher and continued to contribute to literary magazines. Berges then visited Bolivia in November 1928 and onwards to Buenos Aires, where she started writing for Spanish embassy financed El Diario Español, with her opinions causing some problems for the Spanish ambassador. She continued to write for other publicans.

Berges finally returned to Spain via Paris in 1931 with the founding of the Second Spanish Republic, finally arriving in Madrid in December. On the question of women’s suffrage, she sided with her friend Clara Campoamor over those of fellow lesbian Victoria Kent; Burges supported universal suffrage. Despite the Second Republic liberating parts of Spanish society, Berges found her work subjected to censorship; in 1935, this forced her to clandestinely publish her book El Diario Español. Following the military uprising in July 1936 in Madrid, Berges was put in charge of an orphanage abandoned by nuns in the barrio of Guindalera. Working with a team of volunteers, Berges was successfully able to evacuate the children to Granollers in Catalonia. After arriving with the children, she proceeded to Barcelona where she started writing and working for for Mujeres Libres alongside several other women including Rosa Chacel, Soledad Estorach, Carmen Conde, Pepita Carpeña, Sara Berenguer, Suceso Portales, María Jiménez, Concha Liaño, Lola Iturbe, Antonia Fontanillas, and Mercedes Comaposada. Berges also participated in literacy campaigns for women, campaigned against forced prostitution and worked on the rights of women in a number of spheres that many of her male colleagues wanted to ignore.

As the Civil War started to draw to a close in February 1939 with victory for the fascists, Berges joined the waves of refugees in Barcelona fleeing for France on foot. She was part of a group detained in Portbou near the border for more than 24 hours without warm clothes or food. The group was then put taken over the border to France, vaccinated and then put on a train to an unknown destination. Berges managed to escape, but found herself captured and put into a concentration camp; she once again escaped and managed to make it to Paris where she had friends and contacts to aid her. Berges remained in the city for four years but was arrested in 1943 by the German occupiers. Despite her being Jewish, the Germans decided to treat her as a Spaniard and forcibly returned her to Spain. Berges managed to avoid jail in Spain but still faced persecution for her Republican affiliation; she was unable to work as a teacher, nor publish as a journalist. Fearing reprisals from the regime, Berges was also unable to submit her work abroad. She had to rely on work as a translator, and claim royalties from those works as the copyright owner of the translated materials. Berges died on 23 December 1988 in Madrid aged 89.

María Martínez Sierra

María de la O Lejárraga García, better known by her pen name María Martínez Sierra, was a feminist, writer, dramatist, translator and politician. She was also member of the Círculo Sáfico de Madrid. It is possible that her marriage was that of a lesbian married to a gay man for the sake of appearances for both, allowing both to be more private in their intimate affairs. She was the godmother of Elena Fortún.

Her work Granada. Guía emocional, originally published in France in 1911, can be viewed as one of the first guides written for homosexuals in Spain, despite being stated as being a guide for women. While her husband is credited at the author, almost the entire work is by María Martínez Sierra. The author herself was a militant feminist, member of Círculo Sáfico de Madrid and not a fervent Catholic, which possibly makes claims of being aimed at male homosexuals questionable given the assumptions about the lack of religious places associated with women being credited as reason for it to be assumed to be male homosexuals. While written in a modernist style, it does stick to the traditional travel guide format in places, offering information on where to stay, where to eat, which banks to use, how to take the tram and which monuments to visit. It describes the city using all the senses, including sight, touch, and hearing. The book used a mixed of poetry and prose. The book uses some coded language, such as the word Garzón which can refer to the love of a boy to a man as used in “Historia del cautivp” by Cervantes.

Martínez was born on 28 December 1874 in San Millán de la Cogolla, La Rioja into a wealthy family. Her father was a doctor, and, when Martínez was a 4-year-old, he moved the family to the Carabanchel Bajo of Madrid. Martínez was educated at home by her mother following French instruction methods. She later attended the Asociación para la Enseñanza de la Mujer, completing her education in commerce in 1891 and going on to teach English at Escuela de Institutrices y Comercio in Madrid. She continued her education at the Escuela Normal de Maestras de Madrid, and then worked as a teacher between 1897 and 1907. In 1900, Martínez married Gregorio Martínez Sierra. She took a short break from teaching in 1905 to travel to Belgium on a scholarship to learn more about the educational system and teaching practices in that country. At the same time she was teaching, her literary career took off under her pen name, largely because of familial pressure because they did not support the idea of women writing professionally. Martínez co-founded the literary magazine Helios with husband and Juan Ramon Jiménez. It existed from 1903 to 1904. In 1908, Martínez left the teaching profession to become a fulltime professional writer. In 1909, she tried to commit suicide by jumping into the sea. During the early 1910s, at least 20 of her plays were performed in Madrid, with some of them making tours of France, Great Britain, Latin America and the United States. By the 1910s, Martínez was active in feminist groups in Madrid and continued to be so into the 1920s and early 1930s. In 1922, her husband had a daughter with his lover and Martínez effectively ended the illusion of the marriage continuing except in a professional context. Martínez co-founded the Lyceum Club Feminino in Madrid in 1926, and she ran its literary library. In 1931, the Lyceum Club Feminino ran a conference in Martínez’s honor in El Retiro, collecting 600 pesetas that the author gave to unemployed workers in the city. The focus of the conference, named Literad, was on women’s rights. She stood as PSOE candidate in Granada for the 1933 Spanish General Elections, winning her election. She worked towards limiting the powers of the Cuerpos de Seguridad and the Guardia Civil. Working alongside Dolores Ibárruri, she co-founded the Comité Nacional de Mujeres contra la Guerra y el Fascismo in 1933 and participated in the World Congress in 1934. By 1936, she was part of the Commercial Attaché of the Spanish Legation in Bern. Martínez was appointed secretary to the Spanish delegation for the International Labour Organization’s XXIII Conference, but was dismissed from the role by Juan Negrín. Following her dismissal and with the Civil War ongoing, she decided to relocate to Nice, France. When the Civil War ended, her time in exile officially began, with Martínez moving between France, Mexico, Argentina, and the United States. Ill health made her decide to retire to Buenos Aires, Argentina where she continued writing that had never really stopped. When her husband died, the rights to her work that she had published under his name were passed on to the daughter he had in his affair with an actress; despite repeated appeals to his daughter to have the rights to her work, the daughter never capitulated, causing Martínez great financial hardship. She died in the city on 28 June 1974 at the age of 99 and is interred at Cementerio de la Chacarita in Buenos Aires.

Gabriela Mistral

Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, more commonly known by her penname Gabriela Mistral, was a Chilean diplomat, educator and poet. Born in Vicuña, Chile on 7 April 1889, she worked in Chilean consulates in a number of cities, including in Madrid. Mistral became involved in lesbian life in the city, and became a member of the Círculo Sáfico de Madrid. She also published some of her works while in the city, including Ternura, a collection of lullabies and rondas released in 1924. Poesías completas, a complete collection of her poems, was also published in the city in 1958, a year after her death on 10 January 1957 in Hempstead, New York.

Irene Polo

Irene Polo was a journalist and publicist. While based in Catalonia, she had extensive contacts with the Círculo Sáfico de Madrid, and was involved in at least one love triangle involving other influential lesbians in Spain in the 1930s.

Polo was born on 27 November 1909 in Barcelona. She became a journalist, one of the few female working journalist in Catalonia at the time. Early in her career, she also worked as a publicist for the film production company Gaumont before leaving it to work as a journalist full time. Her first full time job was for the magazine Mirador, which she started in 1930 and worked for until 1936. At the same time, she wrote for several other publications including Imatges, La Humanitat, La Rambla, L’Opinió, L’Instant and Ultima Hora. In 1935, at the age of 25, she wrote a series of six articles titled Postals d’Eivissa from Ibiza in the Canary Islands for the Catalan language newspaper L’Instant that earned her national acclaim. Ahead of her time, Polo learned to fly planes, wore pants and supported nudism and sexual freedom. In 1936, she would meet Margarita Xirgu and fall hard for the actress made famous by Federico García Lorca’s plays. Polo abandoned her career to become a publicist for Xirgu on her theater group’s tour of Latin America. She replaced Federico García Lorca, who wanted to stay in Spain despite the risks in order to deal with some matters. The start of the Spanish Civil War prevented her from returning to Spain, so she was left in exile in the Argentine capital where she worked as a translator and advertising director. The couple separated after the tour at Xirgu’s instigation with Xirgu moving to Chile. Polo, unable to return to Spain because of the Civil War, went to Argentina to join her family. She was never able to get over Xirgu, and committed suicide at the age of 33 in Buenos Aires by jumping out a window on 3 April 1942.

Matilde Ras

Matilde Ras was a Spanish and Catalan writer, columnist, essayinst, translator and graphologist. She was romantically linked with Elena Fortún, with whom she started a relationship sometime probably during the 1920s.

Ras was born on 1 September 1881 in Tarragona into a family of intellects. When she was a 2-year-old, her family moved to Cuba. Following her father’s death in Cuba, the family returned to Tarragona, then moving around, living in Barcelona next, followed by Zaragoza and Soria. By the time she was in high school, her family had permanently settled in Madrid. By that point, she was fluent in Spanish, Catalan and French. By the end of high school, Ras was teaching art and doing translation work. Ras was also interested in graphology, self-teaching herself the subject and eventually writing books on the subject that are still in use today. Ras also became involved in feminist circles in Madrid, though she defined herself as a conservative feminist, believing that women should receive an education and could find fulfillment outside the home but that women should also maintain the maternal and domestic role inside the home. Her social group was Círculo Sáfico de Madrid that included Victorina Durán. She also started publishing in Blanco y Negro in the 1920s, which is likely how she met Elena Fortún, with whom she would become romantically involved. The pair only separated when Fortún went into exile following the end of the Civil War. Ras spent two years in Portugal, from 1941 to 1943. Her last novel, Heroísmos oscuros, was published in 1968. Ras died the following year on 15 April 1969 in Madrid.

Marisa Roësset Velasco

Marisa Roësset Velasco was an important figurative and religious painter in the first half the 20th century. Unlike a number of her contemporaries, she remained in Spain following the Civil War and was an active participant in the Franco regime’s Seccion Feminina. She and her partner would be interred together in death.

Roësset was born in Madrid on 6 March 1904 into a family of artists and literary women, including her aunt, painter Maria Roesset Mosquera, and her cousins, sculptor Marga Gil Roesset, editor Consuelo Gil Roesset and painter Rosario de Velasco. By the age of 14, she had begun painting and would soon go on to attend Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Her classmates included Salvador Dalí , Victorina Durán and Lucía Sánchez Saornil. By 1924, her work was being exhibited with one piece, Autorretrato, eventually being acquired by the Museo de Arte Moderno in Madrid. Her first solo exhibit was soon after at the Lyceum Club Femenino, despite the fact that she was not a member. In 1929, her work was exhibited at the Palacio de Bibliotecas y Museos Nacionales. She continued to show art, take classes and teach others throughout the Second Republic Period. She also started to socialize with members of the Círculo Sáfico de Madrid. It was also around this time that Roësset opened her studio on calle Goya, where she would work and teach art classes for foorty years. In 1938, she began a relationship with soprano singer Lola Rodríguez Aragón with whom she would live until her death from cancer in Madrid on 18 November 1976. The women are interred together at Sacramental de San Isidro de Madrid. Roësset left Rodríguez all her art in her will, and Rodríguez subsequently planned to open a museum with her works in one of the apartments they shared. Rodríguez died suddenly in 1984, and her family dismantled the collection. Roësset’s work is part of the collection of Museo de Arte Moderno de Barcelona, Escuela de Canto de Madrid and Museo del Prado.

Margarita Ruiz de Lihory y Resino

Margarita Ruiz de Lihory y Resino was a member of the Spanish nobility and member of the Círculo Sáfico de Madrid. She likely had a brief relationship with Victorina Durán.

Likely born in 1893, her father was an important figure in Valencia, serving as a councilor in the the city government, mayor, and representative in the Cortes. In Valencia, Ruiz herself was known to the people as Regina dels Jocs Florals de Lo Rat Penat de 1907. When she was 17, she married another member of Valencian nobility, Ricardo Shelly Correa, whom she would have four children with. Ruiz went to university, originally studying medicine before switching to law. When her father died in 1920, Ruiz took her older sister to court over the issue of who inherited his titles; the legal battles would last more than 30 years. Around the same time as her father’s death, she became interested in feminist causes, abandoned her husband and moved to Madrid where she worked as a journalist. Ruiz was well trusted by the Dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, who sent her on espionage missions to the Rif in present day Morocco in August 1922 using her status as a reporter as a cover; Ruiz eventually became a double agent for Rif resistance leader Abd el-Krim. There she would meet Francisco Franco. Following these events, she then traveled the Americas for five years, visiting places like New York, the District of Columbia, Chicago, Boston, Mexico City and Havana, meeting many of the notable figures of the day. Her international travels were cut short by the death of her grandmother, forcing her to return to Spain in 1929 to deal with the will. Once taken care of, Ruiz moved to Paris where she would be based for the next five years. She continued to be involved in Spanish feminist activities despite being based elsewhere. She married again in a civil wedding during the Civil War to a man who divorced his wife to be with her; following the end of the Civil War, the law changed, and the marriage was declared null and void. Ruiz finally settled with her family in Albacete following World War II.

In late January 1954, Ruiz was alleged by her son to have been involved in mutilating her daughter Margarita’s corpse following her death earlier in the month. The police searched her house, found her daughter’s hand in a jar of alcohol, along with two skinless dog heads, animal entrails, and locks of hair. The case attracted large amounts of media attention. Ruiz was found guilty of desecrating a corpse and sentenced to a mental hospital in Carabanchel. She spent only a short time there, released early because of her personal connections but finding herself in destitution as she was forced to sell little by little properties she owned. Ruiz eventually died on 15 May 1968 in Albacete, and is interred in Cementerio Nuestra Señora de los Llanos in Albacete.

Lucía Sánchez Saornil

Lucía Sánchez Saornil was a poet, a militant anarchist, a humanist, a union organizer and member of the Círculo Sáfico de Madrid. She was also the co-founder of Mujeres Libres. As a writer, she sometimes used the name Luciano de San-Saor to make her homosexuality more ambiguous.

Sánchez was born in 13 December 1895 in Madrid into a working class family, and lived on calle del Labrador in what was then the working class barrio of Peñuelas as a child. Her mother and brother died in 1908, when she was 12. She attended the Centro Hijos de Madrid where she developed an interest in the arts, finishing her primary and secondary education at the school. As a result of these experiences, she enrolled at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Pintura de San Fernando and was introduced to some of the people involved with the avant-garde movement of the day. By 1913, she was a published poet, with her first poem Nieve being published in Avante, a weekly newspaper based in Ciudad Rodrigo. By 1918, she was involved with the Ultraism avant-garde movement, which was based at Café Colonial on Calle Alcalá, 3. While Sánchez did not attend meetings, she was the only woman involved in the group. Sánchez took a job in 1916 for the company that is now Telefónica, working for them and going on to organize workers to unionize with Confederación Nacional del Trabajo. This initially led to her transfer to Valencia in 1927, before returning to Madrid in 1929. She was fired from her job in 1931 for her union activities, and was only able to work for them again in 1936. During the interim period, she focused on her anarcho-syndicalist activities and wrote for newspapers and magazines that supported her political ideologies. In 1933, Sánchez was appointed the Secretary of Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), and worked on integrating women and women’s needs into the organization; she was prevented from doing so though because of the patriarchy baked into the system and sexist men working to protect their own entrenched interests. As a result, Sánchez, Mercedes Comaposada and Amparo Poch Gascón co-founded a splinter organization in April 1936 called Mujeres Libres. At its peak, the organization had 20,000 affiliates. When the Civil War broke out in Madrid, Sánchez actively took part as a militiawoman, participating in the assault on the Cuartel de la Montaña. In 1937, her only collection of poems published as a book, Romancero de mujeres libres, during her lifetime was release. The collection was a revindication of the role of women during the Civil War. It wouldn’t be reprinted again until 1996. Later that year, Sánchez moved to Valencia where she began a lifelong relationship with América Barroso. Her open relationship, not viewing her lesbianism as political because love shouldn’t be, a philosophy of you should love whoever you want to freely made her one of the first lesbians in Spain with this affirmative attitude. Two years later, in 1939, she went into exile in France via Barcelona. Sánchez tried to clandestinely return to Madrid in 1942 via La Junquera to restart Mujeres Libres; however, Sánchez was soon recognized and forced to flee to Valencia where she lived in hiding until 1954 when she regularized her situation as she lacked a ration card. During that whole time, she continued to write, up until her death from breast cancer in 1990.

Margarita Xirgu Subirá

Margarita Xirgu Subirá was a popular Spanish stage actress, friend of poet Federico García Lorca and central figure in some of the affairs of Círculo Sáfico de Madrid. The Catalan stage actress was well known within the theater community for being an out lesbian in the Second Republic period, and was connected to Spain’s most famous gay man Federico García Lorca, appearing in several of his plays including Yerma, Blood Wedding, and Doña Rosita. She was a cultural representative of the Second Republic period, which along with her homosexuality ultimately forced her into permanent exile following the end of the Civil War. Xirgu was born on 18 June 1888 in Molins de Rei, Catalonia. Her family moved to Girona two years later, and moved for a final time to Barcelona in 1896. In 1900, she began to work as an amateur actress, making her amateur debut at the Salón Asiático in Barcelona in Josep Feliu i Codina’s Lo nuvi. Her performance as Zola in Teresa Raquin in 1906 was a big success, allowing her the opportunity to work as a professional actor. She went on to make her professional stage debut at Barcelona’s Teatre Romea in a December 1906 performance as Blanca in Mar i Cel. Xirgu’s 1908 performance in Joventut de príncep at the Teatre Principal de Maótheater was her first major success. Her November 1909 performance in Joventut de príncep by Wilhelm Meyer Forster at Teatre Principal de Barcelona brought her more success. Xirgu’s relationship with the theater came to an end the following year after her performance in Oscar Wilde’s Salome. In 1911, she created her own theater company. That same year, Àngel Guimerà wrote La reina jove for her. The following year, Xirgu went international after signing a contract for an overseas tour that saw her perform in Buenos Aires, Uruguay and Chile. When Xirgu returned to Spain in 1914 following the tour, she settled in Madrid with her first performances at the theater in Santiago Rusiñol’s play El patio azul, and then followed it up with more roles at the same and other theaters in Madrid. The following years would see her performance in other cities in Spain, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. Between 1926 and 1933, she played a critical role in bringing Merida’s Teatro Romano back to life after almost 1500 years without use by creating a theater festival there that continues to this day. Following a successful performance by Margarita Xirgu in Saint Joan at Teatro Eslava in 1926, a tribute was paid to the actress at the Hotel Ritz. It was here that she would hear about a promising poet, Federico García Lorca, for the first time. This event initiated a lifelong friendship between the two, and saw her act in a debut of one of his plays in Barcelona the following year. Xirgu left for a tour of the Americas in January 1936 via the Santander. She would never return to Spain, as shortly thereafter the Spanish Civil War started. Initially, she planned to travel with poet and playwright Federico García Lorca but he decided to stay in Spain and accompany her later. Instead, she was accompanied by fellow Catalan lesbian and journalist Irene Polo. Personal tragedy befell her over the course of the next decade, but she continued to act in performances around South America. In 1959, she became a citizen or Uruguay. She died on 25 April 1969 in Montevideo, and was given a Catalan nationalist themed funeral.

Rosa Chacel

Rosa Clotilde Chacel Arimón is a Spanish writer, most famous in lesbian circles for writing Acrópolis which explored lesbian life in Spain during the 1920s. In her day, she was a famous but also controversial figure because of her political opinions. Rosa Chacel was born on 3 June 1898 in Valladolid. The daughter of a teacher who home schooled her until the age of ten, Chacel was sent to Madrid in 1908 to live with her grandmother. The following year, Chacel was enrolled at Escuela de artes y oficios to study drawing. Her teacher took a new teaching position the following year and Chacel followed her to the Escuela del hogar y Profesional de la Mujer for the start of the 1911 school year. It was at this school that Chacel would begin to develop her feminist beliefs. In 1915, she enrolled at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de San Fernando to study sculpture but dropped out in 1918. She soon became a regular fixture at the tertulias taking place at Cafe Granja del Henar and at the Ateneo de Madrid, the only two that accepted women. She married painter Timoteo Perez Rubio in 1921 and followed him to Rome the following year. She returned to Madrid with him in 1927. Her first novel was published a few years later in 1930. The following year, she had a son and decided to dedicate herself to motherhood. After her mother’s death in 1933, she moved to Berlin for six months to try to recover and to rediscover her creative side. When the Civil War started, Chacel assisted Republican efforts by serving as a nurse while her husband enlisted. Chacel would move around with her son during the war to Barcelona, Valencia and finally outside Spain in Paris. Following the war, the couple reunited lived in Brazil for three decades while visiting Buenos Aires regularly. Chacel, like many of her Madrid contemporaries, fell into relative obscurity until 1959 when she on a Guggenheim Fellowship, which enabled her to return to writing. She lived and worked in New York City for a while, visited Spain a few times and then returned to Brazil to live. When her husband died in 1977, she took it as an opportunity to return to Spain and Madrid for good. While in Spain in this period, she published a number of novels. Chacel died on 7 August 1994 at the age of 96. She is interred at the Panteón de Hijos Vallisoletanos Ilustres.

Victornia Duran

Victorina Durán Cebrian was a Spanish playwright, musician, costume designer and painter. One of her plays was unpublished, and wasn’t discovered until well after her death in the archives of the Museo Nacional del Teatro de Almagro. Her works were purged by the Franco regime following the Spanish Civil War. Her lovers likely included Margarita Ruiz de Lihory, Irene López Heredia, María del Carmen Vernacci, Margarita Xirgu and Hélène Bouvier. She is notable because she is one of a handful of lesbians from this period that did not hide her lesbianism, which is mentioned in her memoirs, and her feminist activities.

Durán was born on 12 December 1899 in Alcoi, Alicante into a musical family with close connections to the Teatro Real de Madrid. When she was a 9-year-old, she enrolled at the Conservatorio Superior de Música y Declamación to study piano while also taking painting classes. As an 18-year-old, she enrolled at Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando along with Rosa Chacel and Matilde Calvo Rodero. While there, she also developed lifelong friendships with Salvador Dalí, Gregorio Prieto, Maruja Mallo and Timoteo Pérez Rubio. Durán was one the founders of the Lyceum Club Femenino in Madrid, alongside María de Maeztu, Zenobia Camprubí, Isabel Oyarzábal, Victoria Kent and María Martos. In 1929, she became the Cátedra of the Indumentaria del Conservatorio de Música y Declamación. She was the first woman to hold the position. She worked alongside Irene López Heredia, Lola Membrives, Margarita Xirgu and Rivas Cherif creating costumes until 1931. During this period, she also helped found the Teatro Escuela de Arte. As a consequence of the Spanish Civil War, she went into exile and settled in Buenos Aires, Argentina by September 1937 where she continued to work. Durán returned to Spain in 1963, successfully fought the government to get a pension and opened a cocktail bar in Peñíscola. She produced three autobiographical works in this period including Sucedió, Así es and El rastro de Madrid, along with unpublished plays deposited in the Archivo del Museo Nacional del Teatro de Almagro. Durán died on 10 December 1993 in Madrid after a long battle with illness. In her later life, she focused exclusively on painting and having her work appear in exhibits.

Elena Fortún

Elena Fortún, born in Madrid on 17 November 1886 with the name María de la Encarnación Gertrudis Jacoba Aragoneses y de Urquijo, was another prominent woman in the 1920s. Known in this period for her vividly written children’s stories that were first published in 1929, her work would later play the same role for many Spanish children as Richmal Crompton, Mark Twain or Roald Dahl did for British and American kids.

Fortún had an unhappy childhood and never managed to fit in. As a young child, she knew that she never wanted to marry and never wanted to bound herself forever to a man; she wanted the ability to make her own decisions without male interference. Despite these beliefs, in 1908 she married a cousin, a playwright and member of the Generation of 1914, with whom she went on to have two children. It was her husband her encouraged her to take up writing. In this period and later in the Second Republic and Civil War periods, she remained Republican sympathetic but largely apolitical, allowing her to later avoid imprisonment by the regime. Sometime in the 1920s, Fortún became involved with Matilde Ras. In 1950s, her lesbian novel Oculto sendero would quietly begin to circulate inside Spain among the country’s lesbian and would not be officially published until after her death.

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