Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > impact on women / resistance > Women and the Fight for Urban Change in Late Francoist Spain*

Women and the Fight for Urban Change in Late Francoist Spain*

Saturday 25 February 2023, by siawi3


Women and the Fight for Urban Change in Late Francoist Spain*

Roseanna Webster
Past & Present, gtac016,

Published: 17 October 2022


This article explores how Spanish women formed grassroots groups to fight for the transformation of their neighbourhoods in the late 1950s and 1960s — the latter years of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. In contrast to most histories of feminism, which focus on literate, secular groups in universities or the centres of cities, its subjects are activists based on the outskirts of Madrid and in the industrial areas of Asturias, many of whom were Catholic, came from rural areas and left school before the age of 14.

Histories of feminism have tended to overlook completely movements in the southern European dictatorships, while accounts of modern Spain often see male politicians and experts as the driving forces shaping the built environment under Franco. But photographs, archival material and oral history interviews show that women demanded ‘cosas básicas’ (basic resources) on a widespread scale in Asturias and Madrid. They made these claims in the context of unprecedented internal migration, industrial unrest and the spread of social Catholic movements: factors often neglected in studies of social movements. The women involved have sometimes struggled, however, to take pride in their actions in later life. Patterns in their life stories suggest why, and offer insight into what agitating under Franco has meant for how they understand their lives, identities and relationships.


Elena Solís moved to the neighbourhood of La Luz as a young woman in 1962, during a period of unprecedented population movement in Spain. La Luz was a new estate on the outskirts of the Asturian coastal city Avilés. Half of its inhabitants came from the nearby countryside, the rest from regions beyond Asturias. The estate’s architect had originally promised an ‘authentic garden city’ and his plans included a school, a park and even shops.1 But when La Luz opened in 1962, it lacked such amenities along with paved roads, street lights and transport links. In 1963, Elena and other women in La Luz started to create gardens from the estate’s wasteland, labouring on weekdays while most of their husbands were working. This was the first collective action by women in Avilés since the civil war in the 1930s. After several months the women, who had all left school by the age of fourteen, approached their local priest, who allowed them to meet in his makeshift church to discuss the neighbourhood’s needs.2

Women in La Luz proceeded by demanding further resources from the local authorities, transforming their surroundings before the death of the dictator, Francisco Franco, in 1975. Elena’s account belongs to a wider story that this article traces, of how women in the late 1950s and 1960s claimed what they called ‘cosas básicas’ for their neighbourhoods in Asturias and Madrid. It uses photographs, archival material and oral history interviews to show how collectives helped shape the places in which they lived, changing Spain’s social and urban landscape and constituting the emergence of women into the political arena.3

Elena struggles, however, to recount her own story, despite the material changes she and others made. She ends an oral history interview asking ‘do you think I made a mistake? I never had a big family — never had children. Maybe I — maybe I made a mistake. Do you think I did?’4 Elena’s question interrupts the narrative flow. It invites the listener to evaluate her life against paths she now deems untaken, opposing her former political activism with an identity she depicts as traditionally feminine. This conflict might relate to cultural expectations from the time she is describing, or to her later beliefs and experiences. Whichever is the case, she intimates a tension that is echoed in other interviews of female activists born between 1920 and 1945, who pursued urban change and enhanced resources in late Francoist Spain.

Yet studies of social movements, particularly those led by working-class women, tend not to discuss whether their subjects have felt torn or ambivalent about their past actions. Terms like ‘maternalist politics’ and ‘militant motherhood’ are useful but can conjure images of groups who found identifying in a collective manner straightforward. They allow scant room for those with more fraught and evolving relationships to these roles.5 Such ambivalence is one of several themes that, while threaded through the material presented here, are often missing from histories of feminism.

Studies of feminism in the twentieth century tend to emphasize the role of literate, secular activists based in the urban heartlands or universities of democratic nations. This is despite the field having recently widened its focus beyond groups of predominantly white women in North America, Britain and France, to consider how people of colour and of all genders also acted to improve the lives and status of women.6 Yet despite the range of contexts encompassed, researchers often overlook the actions of people under dictatorial regimes, particularly those in which religious customs and low levels of literacy were commonplace. They assume that such conditions have instead acted to block the emergence of women’s activism.7 The southern European dictatorships are among the most neglected contexts, frequently excluded from historical surveys.8

Histories of twentieth-century southern Europe have also overlooked the role of working-class female activists. They have particularly ignored women from rural areas, who had not received a formal education beyond the age of fourteen and had links to their local church.9 Popular and academic memory instead casts such women as resisting currents of change while presenting politicians and experts, often but not always male, as driving Europe’s twentieth-century transformations. This modernization narrative is entrenched, for instance, in relation to Spain’s waterscape, which changed so dramatically in the middle of the century that Franco acquired the nickname ‘Paco el Rana’ (Frankie the Frog).10 Yet accounts of this process focus on the construction of dams, reservoirs and canals. They disregard the introduction of taps and of facilities deemed pre-modern, like standpipes and fountains, which were principally used by women in their daily routines. As a result they exclude many of the people who shaped Spain’s ‘hydro-social transformation’ who were neither experts nor elites.11

Work on grassroots activism in the 1960s and 1970s, including on the neighbourhood and housewife associations that gained ground in these decades, has presented the most serious challenge to accounts of change in Spain that emphasize its top-down character.12 Yet such studies often focus on ‘democratization’. They deploy examples of urban activism in service of arguments about how local collectives instilled cultures of democracy and citizenship. This approach can overlook how people framed their aims and achievements at the time in different terms, and how organizing shaped their self-perceptions. The democracy paradigm has also embedded a divide between histories of neighbourhood activism and of Spanish feminism, as local organizing is only analysed in terms of its link to the democratic transition and not to other processes such as the emergence of women’s movements. As these phenomena are studied independently, Spanish feminism is often painted as having emerged among groups based in universities or urban centres in the mid-1970s.13

This article tells a different story. It argues that significant numbers of women started organizing on the outskirts of Madrid and in Asturian mining towns from the late 1950s onwards. They did so within the context of Francoism, and neither democracy and secularism, nor high rates of literacy and formal education, were necessary preconditions. Several alternative and overlooked factors help explain how women’s movements developed and grew in Spain: internal migration, Catholic internationalism, and industrial unrest. I apply a theoretical framework, the moral economy of motherwork, to understand how these factors shaped the politics that emerged in each area.

The moral economy of motherwork synthesizes concepts developed by the social historian E. P. Thompson with those coined by the Black feminist scholar, Patricia Hill Collins. Thompson used the notion of a moral economy in the 1970s to counter the prevailing understanding of food riots as simple ‘rebellions of the belly’.14 He argued that eighteenth-century English rioters deemed their actions rightful according to established custom, and that their claims cohered with how they interpreted local consensus. The term moral economy describes how people see their rights and responsibilities based on an unspoken agreement about how goods should be distributed within their communities.

Motherwork is a term Collins coined in the 1980s to blur the distinction between productive and reproductive labour. She used it to critique concurrent feminist theory, which assumed that all women experienced motherhood in the same way: as an opposition between the public sphere and political economy, and a private, non-economic, domestic household.15 Liberation, according to such theory, rested on overcoming this opposition. Yet Collins showed that arranging a study of motherhood around working-class American women of colour produced new themes: the locus of conflict often lay outside the family; many women were their families’ breadwinners; and their communal distribution of childcare challenged prevailing property relations. She also conceived the term ‘othermothering’ from analysing the childcare practices of African American slave communities, whereby slaves often cared for infants not biologically their own. Collins’s theories remain pertinent, and Sarah Knott recently urged more scholars to use ‘othermothers’ to discuss caregivers who were not necessarily ‘natural’ mothers, nor gendered cis female.16

Motherwork and othermothering are helpful concepts for understanding the activism of working-class women in Franco’s Spain, and this article draws on them while being sensitive to the very different contexts and subjectivities under discussion. It also follows Collins in asking how women’s actions for their communities, their motherwork, shaped their self-perceptions.17 I compare women’s motherwork in four locations: the Avilés housing estate, La Luz; a barrio (neighbourhood) on the outskirts of Madrid, Palomeras; the Asturian mining town of Barredos; and the port city of Gijón in Asturias. Analysing these places together allows discussion of regional variation, such as how a context of industrial unrest shaped women’s activism in parts of Asturias, while also showing how population movement could create greater similarities between places such as La Luz and Palomeras, with large numbers of migrants, than between geographically closer locations.

The following five sections explore how groups drew on different moral economies of motherwork according to the places in which they were based. Sections I and II consider how women organized around the lack of amenities from the late 1950s, by presenting as mothers in the context of widespread population movement and industrial unrest. Their appeal to a caregiving role echoed Francoist laws and rhetoric about women’s responsibility in ensuring the stability of the family.18 But presenting in this way lent their actions legitimacy and helped them defy the ban on political organizing, introduced by the regime in 1941.

Sections III and IV assess how local female activists garnered support from Catholic figures who operated within currents of reform rippling through the Catholic Church in the decades leading up to the second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Coalitions of women received help from nuns and Catholic social workers who justified their interventions based on a similar rationale to that of the female activists in the barrios. Groups of women in different locations also solicited support from their local priests, in a manner analogous to Elena’s group in La Luz. Many of the priests responded by helping the women turn their church into a space from which to imagine and implement further social and urban change.

The final section considers what struggling for such change under Franco meant for the women involved. It analyses how the female militants tell their life stories in oral history interviews and how they consciously and unconsciously grapple with their former roles as political activists. In particular it explores how they defined themselves intergenerationally, in comparison to their mothers and grandmothers. The article concludes that the coalitions of activists in the barrios of Asturias and Madrid helped transform their surroundings and contributed to the emergence of women’s movements in Spain. But identifying as female political activists has not been easy for those involved.


Spain witnessed internal migration on a previously unknown scale in the decades after its civil war. Migration had climbed in the late nineteenth century. Yet external migration initially dwarfed internal movement. The latter rose sharply in the 1940s, when over a million Spaniards are estimated to have relocated within the country. Population movement continued throughout the mid century, and by 1975 an estimated quarter of the population had internally migrated at some point. Demographic change also followed new post-war patterns. Migratory flows had originated from a variety of places in Spain in the early twentieth century, yet during the Francoist decades, four regions generated 86 per cent of migrants: Andalusia, Extremadura, Castile and León, and Castile–La Mancha.19 Ever more women migrated too, and by 1960 almost as many women as men had left their birth place.20 These shifts were consequent on Francoist policies, which emphasized heavy industry at the expense of agricultural production, forcing thousands of families to move or face starvation. Such policies deepened economic rifts between rural and urban areas that had emerged during the 1930s global recession.21

From the mid-1940s Rural migrants increasingly settled on the industrializing peripheries of towns surrounding Madrid (Plate 1). Scores of young families would jump off the train before it reached the Atocha station in Madrid. They would then buy a plot from a local landowner, often choosing one ‘next to José from the same pueblo (village)’.22 Many worked overnight to build huts from wood, clay and corrugated iron. These buildings were called chabolas (slums).23 The Madrid chabolas were technically illegal as they occupied space allocated as green land. But members of the civil guard, who patrolled the areas during weekdays, were often open to bribes and persuasion.24 Carmen Villar Luque, who moved to Madrid in 1952 recalls, ‘you’d wake up in the morning to find a load of new houses’.25 In 1954, urban planners responded to demographic change by annexing thirteen of Madrid’s satellite towns to the capital, including the informal migrant settlements that had mushroomed between them. The rate of arrivals to Madrid plateaued in 1954 and fell after 1957, when the government introduced new laws to police building practices.26

1. ‘Calle Juan Pablo’ (Juan Pablo Street). Photo: Maria Francisca Tena for her study, ‘La situación escolar en el barrio de Palomeras Bajas de Madrid’ (1963). Image courtesy of Antonio Gabriel Rosón Alonso and family.

La Luz, the Asturian housing estate in Avilés, lacked proper roads, street lighting and a school, but unlike Palomeras, it did not host chabolas. La Luz had five-storey blocks with running water and other amenities. These looked like ‘beehives built on barren land’ to many first arrivals, who had never seen such buildings before.27 The difference between the infrastructure immigrants encountered in La Luz and Palomeras owed much to the contrasting histories of the two locations. Asturian coal mines had confirmed the region’s status as a major industrial hub by the late nineteenth century. Large parts of Asturias benefitted from the national reliance on its coal in the 1940s, while most other Spanish regions suffered the consequences of Francoist policies of economic isolationism — its autarchic mode of governance.28 The number of mines and related industries grew significantly in the 1940s; both the coalfields and Gijón saw an influx of people from rural areas. The region’s reputation as an industrial hub was further enhanced in the following decade, when the National Institute for Industry chose the Asturian fishing town Avilés as the site for Ensidesa, the new national steel factory. La Luz was one of several estates built to house the families of Ensidesa workers (Plate 2).

2. La Luz, likely taken between 1962 and 1965, photographer unknown. Source: Asociación de Vecinos La Luz, La Luz: nuestro barrio, nuestros recuerdos (Avilés, 2013). Courtesy of the Asociación de Vecinos La Luz, Avilés (La Luz Neighbourhood Association).

The majority of women who migrated to Palomeras and La Luz came from places with fluid structures between work and family life. Women in rural Spain, as in many contexts, often engaged in labour outside the home: they fed chickens and other livestock, collected water and worked in the fields. María Ángeles Durán, who in the 1970s pioneered sociological research into women’s labour, called these quotidian and unpaid tasks ‘family help’.29 A growing number of women also worked in olive, rice and other agricultural industries.30 Dioni Morcuende Núñez grew up in a rural pueblo before moving to Madrid in her late teens. She left school aged nine. In an interview she describes her mother working ‘during the harvest, when people would go to pick olives or tobacco’.31 Such activities supplemented the routine unpaid labour of household management that formed the daily lives of most Spanish women. Dioni recalls her mother’s work often providing the family income: ‘When my father went off to war we were left with nothing, but we almost always had food on the table’.32 Dioni accompanied her mother in the fields, or she stayed with her extended family. Most women who migrated in mid-century Spain had previously experienced this blurred distinction between productive and reproductive care work, this motherwork.

Moving severed the intergenerational family ties many migrant women had previously relied on for childcare and domestic help. Such was the case for both those relocating to Palomeras, like Dioni, and for those like Elena who moved to the housing estate La Luz. Ensidesa’s policy of seeking workers under 40 to inhabit La Luz shaped its demography, while this dynamic unfolded more organically in Madrid, as settling families would often send word home of their new location. Spreading news this way prompted a migration chain as young families from one village would follow others, even basing themselves on the same street. Palomeras did not just draw families but also increasingly attracted single women seeking work in Madrid’s expanding textiles industry.33 Yet young couples with and without children formed the bulk of new arrivals at both La Luz and Palomeras.

The break with former kinship ties compelled migrant women to form new alliances in Palomeras and La Luz, though the process was not always smooth. In Palomeras and other Madrid barrios, these relationships were partly rooted in place-based affiliations. Most arrivals at La Luz, however, had no prior links, and different origins and accents provoked tensions. Andalusians recall that they were called ‘Koreans’ because people compared the images they saw in public service broadcasts of the Korean war with those depicting the conditions that many Andalusians lived in during the post-war years.34 An anonymous female resident describes having ‘struggled a lot when I arrived. I was miserable. Ay it was a sad time’.35 Yet gradually women on the estate began to gather during the daytime. Another former inhabitant of the estate explains: ‘You would only see mothers in the mornings. There weren’t any grandparents, the dads worked … We were a horde of kids’.36 The residents remember women on the estate starting to ‘form a pinecone’ (hacer piña), to use their term for uniting in the face of adversity.

Migrant women resumed aspects of their previous responsibilities and drew on their newly significant relationships to establish the first communal facilities in Palomeras. In 1958, an Andalusian woman known as Señora Paca started an informal nursery by opening her chabola, first to the infants of those she knew from her pueblo, and then to all of the neighbourhood’s children.37 Paca was not herself a mother but in offering this service was continuing and expanding a role she had previously occupied for her female relatives. Paca’s nursery was one of a growing number of informal childcare arrangements in Madrid’s chabolas based on sharing domestic resources and on acting as a barrio othermother.

The gardens of the La Luz housing estate were also started by women migrants upholding their rural traditions and prior modes of labour (Plates 3,4 and 12). Elena Solís and others relay that they ‘set to work on the gardens’ in an ad hoc manner. Many mothers brought their children, extending their homes into the neighbourhood as they had done in their pueblos. They also sought to create gardens that reflected aspects of their homelands in their new setting. As Elena details: ‘Everyone wanted to bring something from their part of the land … in your village there was a tree you loved, and so you wanted this tree to come with you to the barrio, to leave an imprint from your part of the world’.38 Groups’ motherwork for nurseries and gardens did not see them challenging the state but it did lay the foundations from which residents could build.

3 and 4. Gardens in La Luz, likely taken between 1962 and 1965, photographer unknown. Source: Asociación de Vecinos La Luz, La Luz: nuestro barrio, nuestros recuerdos (Avilés, 2013). Courtesy of the Asociación de Vecinos La Luz, Avilés (La Luz Neighbourhood Association).

The lack of running water drove women in Palomeras to start contesting the local authorities. The absence of a communal standpipe (una fuente) struck many migrants when they arrived. A scant source of clean water was the presence of aguedores (water boys), as in Plate 5. They would pass through with their donkeys, touting their wares by calling out ‘el aguedor’.39 Women in Palomeras would also walk several miles to ‘water tanks’, such as that based in the town of El Puente de Vallecas, shown in Plates 6, 7 and 8. Once there they ‘had to queue for nearly a kilometre’.40 Dioni moved to Palomeras in 1957 and recalls suffering the lack of a standpipe: ‘We had to go for water … I had huge pitchers, and I would go with my kidneys aching, ay with my kidneys aching’.41 Isabel García Gálvez, who came to the barrio from a town nearby, says: ‘The water was bad, it was bad, it was bad … we’d go looking for fountains which were far away’.42 The absence of water prevented Isabel and others from performing familiar tasks, most of them having routinely collected water from wells or other nearby sources in their former villages. Purificación Alarcón Andújar, who moved to Madrid in 1962, captures this: ‘I thought we were coming for a better life, but I struggled a lot’.43
oad slide

5. ‘Abastecimiento de agua: el aguedor’ (Water Supply: The Water Boy). Photo: Maria Francisca Tena for her study, ‘La situación escolar en el barrio de Palomeras Bajas de Madrid’ (1963). Image courtesy of Antonio Gabriel Rosón Alonso and family.

The dearth of a fuente and the mud produced by a lack of paving elicited shame among women in Palomeras. Purificación describes the neighbourhood as having initially been ‘just some small houses and all mud, all mud’.44 Isabel recalls that in bad weather ‘the streets, not being paved, well, it became a swamp!’ She continues: ‘I cried so much, my husband didn’t know it but I cried so much’.45 Josefa Rojas Copado moved to Palomeras in 1945 and worked as a cleaner in central Madrid in the 1950s. She remembers travelling to work still dirty after the barrio became a ‘mud bath after heavy rain’. She says: ‘Do you know what we’d do when we’d go to Madrid, so that we wouldn’t go to the centre with our boots covered in mud? When we’d get to the fuente in Arroyo de Olivar we’d wash our boots. I mean it was embarrassing how muddy they were’.46

Such sentiments echo those expressed by the subjects of Inbal Ofer’s study of local organizing in another Madrid barrio, Orcasitas.47 Ofer notes the link between water, migration and gendered expectations of respectability in the accounts she analysed. Yet shame also served as a motivating force for young women in Palomeras, and they often responded creatively to feeling embarrassed. Purificación and her friends ‘invented the plastic bag [method] to get to work’. ‘We’d cover our shoes with plastic bags to leave the barrio … If you didn’t have plastic bags, as there weren’t lots around, you’d take a rag’.48

graphic here

Feelings of shame and a moral economy of migrant motherwork converged around water-based issues in the early 1960s in Palomeras, prompting groups of women to protest against the local authorities. Lucía Ribote Cob was a mother of four who came to Palomeras in the mid-1950s. She describes what she remembers as the spontaneous origins of a protest several years after her arrival: ‘I don’t know whose idea it was but one day us women spread the idea among ourselves to go all together to Pedro Laborde [the town hall] … It was a protest without us even knowing it at the time. We went every day for several days’.49 Isabel also says that the daily search for water wore them down ‘until one day we organized a march of women’.50

6, 7 and 8. ‘Gente cogiendo agua de un tanque del ayuntamiento en el pueblo de Vallecas’ (People Collecting Water from a Tank from the Town Hall in Vallecas), 11 Apr. 1957. Photos: Martín Santos Yubero. Archivo Regional de la Comunidad de Madrid, reference code: ES, 28079, 201.001.14775.2. With thanks to la Comunidad de Madrid for granting me permission to use these images without charge.

The police responded to women’s water-based protests with threatened and actual violence. Paca Sauquillo, then a law student from an elite Madrid background, remembers seeing the police chase collectives of women away from El Puente de Vallecas in the early 1960s.51 Purificación also recalls that, after she and her female neighbours marched on the town hall about water flooding their homes, the police entered Palomeras. They did not seek out the protesters themselves but male residents ‘faced problems’ as retribution. ‘The boys quickly ran for cover, at least mine did. We jumped over a wall and I took them to my sister’s house, ’cos of what might have happened’.52 The participants’ caregiving identities helped shield them from violence but this protection did not extend to boys and men.

Yet the local authorities also began to respond to the agitation by providing water facilities to Palomeras residents and by paving the roads.53 From 1963 urban planners increasingly introduced standpipes into Palomeras, such as the one shown in Plate 9. A newspaper article from the time uses gendered terms to describe the temperamental nature of one such standpipe: ‘Buckets, basins, pails, all kinds of containers lined up in an orderly queue for the Palomeras fountains, waiting for the moment when the tap or spout fulfilled its function. Sometimes disappointed, the buckets had to be taken home dry; on other days, the girls smiled at their luck’.54 The fuentes malfunctioned, floods persisted and the Palomeras residents would have to wait until 1975 for running water to reach their homes.55 But the collective action of grassroots groups of women forced the provision of this vital resource.


Women began demanding the provision of available clean water in Asturias several years after their counterparts in Madrid. In 1967, around two hundred women from the Asturian mining town of Barredos marched on their nearest town hall with buckets under their arms (Plate 10). They were rallying against the unsteady flow of water into their taps. The protest entered local lore as ‘the march of the basins’.56 While some participants were women who had migrated to the town in the 1940s or 1950s, many belonged to long-standing Barredos families. Maricusa Argüelles Pérez was of the latter group; her grandparents and great-grandparents had all lived and mined in the same coalfield.57 Maricusa had left school at 14 and was 20 when she joined the march of the basins. She remembers women dominating the march because the water-based problems affected the cooking and cleaning that structured their routines.

9. ‘Una fuente en la Avnd. de San Diego’ (A Standpipe in San Diego Avenue). Photo: Maria Francisca Tena, for her study, La situación escolar en el barrio de Palomeras Bajas de Madrid’ (1963). Image courtesy of Antonio Gabriel Rosón Alonso and family.

The coalfield activists had more awareness of the authority they might wield by presenting themselves as a group of caregivers than those in Madrid. Maricusa had no doubt she was joining a protest in contrast to Lucía’s uncertainty. The Barredos group had buckets in preparation and Maricusa recalls them anticipating the violence men might face from the guardia civil as retribution for marching. She explains that women had led the protest partly because ‘we were more afraid’ that the ‘police could get the men … and [make] reprisals’.58 According to Maricusa, the police eventually disbanded the march with threats but without inflicting physical violence on either the women or their male contemporaries. Maricusa and others recall the local authorities improving the town’s water supplies over the next year.

The differences between the water protests in Barredos and in Palomeras reflect the contrasting histories of the two locations. By the mid-1960s the Asturian coalfields had attracted fame as a centre of leftist politics and rebellion. An insurrection in 1934 known as the ‘Asturian revolt’ first cemented the area’s international reputation. A woman called Aida La-Fuente immolated herself in the name of this rebellion, becoming its most celebrated martyr.59 Aida was one of 1,500 people killed for their part in the uprising, while thousands more were imprisoned. In 1937, a year after civil war had broken out in much of Spain following Franco’s attempted coup, the Nationalists crushed republican forces in Asturias and killed or imprisoned thousands who had sympathized with the republican government. Over the next twenty years, there was little sign of political opposition among Asturians other than a small, clandestine branch of the Spanish Communist party. Yet this would change dramatically with the Asturian miners’ strikes that began in the late 1950s.

The strikes followed waves of unrest in Catalonia and Euskadi (the Basque country). Yet conflict was most intense in Asturias, where numbers and notoriety rendered the Asturian strikes the biggest example of dissent the regime had seen.60 Struggle first surged in Asturias in 1957, in the La Camocha mine near to Gijón. After nine days of strikes the bosses acquiesced and the negotiations of the Asturian mine workers became the stuff of legend for the Spanish left. Strikes recommenced in the coalfields of Mieres in the spring of 1962, before spreading to the cuencas of Turón and Nalón and to La Camocha. Workers in the steel industry and shipyards joined in and the strikes soon reached other regions in Spain, stretching to Andalusia by May. News of the unrest was reported internationally despite the government’s attempt to suppress information.61

Asturian women started to mobilize in solidarity with striking workers in April 1962. From the strike’s outset, the authorities increased police presence throughout the region to prevent protests. The civil guard paid most attention to local food shops, where they expected women to congregate.62 Yet an increasingly active minority of Asturian women, mostly the wives, daughters and sisters of striking miners, ignored these and other measures. On 26 April armed forces arrived in Barredos to disband a group of women ‘trying to block people from entering’ the cinema, to raise awareness of the unrest unfolding.63 Later that month the Governor of Oviedo received a ‘confidential note’ from the police in Gijón stressing that women were smuggling messages from political prisoners to workers in the Nalón and Caudal mines. The note explained that the message-bearers disguised themselves as visitors to Oviedo prison but were really helping the confined troublemakers ‘to direct the conflict’.64

Solidarity actions taken by Asturian women and the response of the police resembled a dance, one that gathered pace throughout May. On 29 April the guardia civil were called again, this time to various Asturian mines, to disperse groups of women trying ‘to block’ workers from continuing to enter the mines and work.65 They called the workers esquiroles (scabs), and the female protesters threw corn at them to gesture that they were chickens for not striking.66 The police also reported that women intended to descend on the towns of Turón, Mieres and Sama ‘en masse’ in early May, to demand food for the families of striking workers and to show their support for the strikes. The guardia civil noted that women were planning to bring their small children, and that those who were not mothers ‘would ask to borrow’ a child from a neighbour.67 Although the police downplayed what they heard, insisting that it be ‘treated as the rumours and remarks of women’, they continued to take security and preventative measures.68 Yet they were unable to thwart all plans and 250 women gathered in Sama on 2 May, seeking to ‘wake up the neighbourhoods’ surrounding the mines.69 The guardia civil arrested and detained eleven of the attendees for several days.

The strike ended in June 1962. By this point the efforts of Asturian women in the face of Francoist repression had garnered local and worldwide recognition and inspired parallel actions in other parts of Spain. Asturian women continued to raise awareness of the miners detained in prison throughout the summer. On 2 September the police arrested Anita Sirgo and Constantina Pérez (Tina), who had taken leading roles in strike support and in agitating for the release of political prisoners. Both were members of the clandestine Spanish Communist party, which the authorities claimed was cause for their arrest. The pair were detained for a month and news that they were tortured while in prison spread throughout Spain. Tina died shortly afterwards and became a regional heroine.70

The recent history of solidarity with striking workers thus encouraged Asturian women to articulate what they felt was their entitlement as caregivers more directly than their counterparts elsewhere; there was a pattern of women intervening politically as wives and mothers. They also had more links to an underground network of leftist parties and trade unions with links abroad, which had developed throughout the region during the period of strikes. In January 1968 in the Asturian mining town of La Rebollada, a ‘commission of housewives’ formed, which had links to the Communist party. The commission collected women’s signatures for a petition on the scarcity of water. A bulletin written by some of those involved in the action states: ‘La Rebollada’s female residents, who are on the sidelines of technical or bureaucratic procedures, are asking for water. Well now you try taking them for a ride’.71 The activists’ reference to local power structures signals that the petitioners were acting according to a moral economy of coalfield motherwork and that they had more of an ‘irascible consumer-consciousness’ than their peers elsewhere.72

Protesters in Gijón invoked a moral economy of both migrant and coalfield motherwork to demand better water services. Gijón’s barrios included more of a mixture of migrants and members of long-standing resident families than the nearby city, Avilés. This was due to the former’s established position as an industrial port base. In 1967, the town hall of Gijón received a petition with over two hundred signatures, stating:

We the housewives of Gijón and the signatories below have suffered abuse at the hands of our local council’s services and our patience is exhausted. For years the problem of water has disrupted the routines of thousands of Gijón’s residents and compromises the most elemental part of a city: its hygiene. This is a problem that threatens to worsen every day, not only due to Gijón’s growth rate but because of the poor quality of the scarce water.73

The letter’s authors challenged the Francoist authorities on their own terms, whether or not they were doing this consciously. They argued that the ‘Gijón housewives’ could not fulfil their ascribed role — as those charged with the care and cleanliness of others — without the necessary provision. Yet the petition defines demographic change as a justification. The number of signatories was also much higher than that of participants in any prior strike solidarity action in Gijón, as cosas básicas mobilized more of the Asturian city’s female population.

The Asturian activists used a more assertive language and a more established set of tactics than their equivalents in Madrid, but their claims were neither more sophisticated nor more successful than the ad hoc Palomeras protests. The outcome was similar in all of the various sites by the late 1960s: change to their surroundings, and women’s increased political participation. The correlation between public action and change to the built environment suggests the key role played by women’s mobilization in shaping the local landscape. The places discussed shared a further commonality: continentally linked Catholic organizations began to help local groups in their actions around cosas básicas.


From the late 1950s, Catholic nuns and social workers in Madrid started to support local populations in their demand for enhanced amenities. This was the case with the chabola nursery Señora Paca established in the late 1950s. Local residents recall that a Jesuit sisterhood donated money to Paca shortly after she had established the facility.74 She accepted their help and over the next year the nursery expanded to cater for more of the barrio’s children. This was relatively well established by the time Purificación Alarcón Andújar required such a service for her children in the mid-1960s. She remembers ‘a Sister called Isabel who was just lovely’.75 Paca’s nursery was one of several childcare schemes on Madrid’s peripheries that Catholic nuns began to back financially in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and sisterhoods increasingly established their own nurseries, which often received state funding.76

The nurseries the nuns ran reflected two currents in Spanish Catholicism, distinct but not at first conflicting, which had developed after the civil war. The first related to the Francoist pursuit of National-Catholicism, which ‘almost effortlessly fused church and state’.77 This dramatically reversed the Second Republic’s establishment of Spain as a secular state in the 1931 constitution. The Francoist National-Catholic agenda reified an ostensibly traditional social and gender order and pledged to return Spain to what was in effect a mythical past. It gave the Catholic hierarchy greater access to state power than in much of Europe. The second tendency was the spread of social Catholicism.

Some within the Spanish church believed that the lack of parochial organization in working-class areas in the early twentieth century had helped cultivate anti-religious sentiment; the war saw thousands of churches ransacked and clergy members killed. From the 1940s, parts of the clergy and laity started to encourage philanthropic activity in such areas.78 Social Catholicism gained ground in Spain in the 1950s amidst growing concern that the regime’s pursuit of capitalist economic policies was exacerbating class antagonisms. It was also part of a cross-border movement that had developed in Belgium, Italy and France since the late nineteenth century.79 Religiously inspired philanthropy had deeper roots, which were often entangled with colonial and missionary projects.80 Yet the kinds of Catholic organizations that emerged also reflected a new drive to retain followers in an industrializing world.81 Catholic groups concerned with the social dynamics of urbanizing areas spread throughout the early and mid-twentieth century, while they remained subject to the vicissitudes of geopolitical forces.

Social Catholic organizations were buoyed in 1959 when Pope John XXIII announced that a second Vatican council was to take place in the 1960s. Alana Harris has argued that the council, which met four times from 1962 to 1965, was more a culmination of ongoing change than the instigator of any radical shift, but that it helped ferment a ‘spirit of Vatican II’.82 Harris quoted the pope’s opening condemnation of the usual ‘prophets of doom’ who cautioned against the ‘ruin’ of the modern world. The pope insisted that the Church should rather be ‘bringing herself up to date’ to make people ‘turn their minds to heavenly things’.83

The ‘spirit of Vatican II’ was the backdrop for the decisions taken by nuns to open nurseries on the outskirts of Madrid. But the nuns were also driven by the perceived needs of women in the barrios. By 1962 a sisterhood called Las Hijas de la Caridad (the Daughters of Charity) had established Madrid’s first official nurseries in the twelve barrios dominated by migrants. Las Hijas was part of an international order founded in seventeenth-century France, and the centres were called after its creator Louisa de Marillac, whom the pope had named Patroness of Christian Social Workers in 1960. Volunteers were known as Luisas in the Madrid centres, which could care for up to two hundred children.

A contemporary newspaper interviewed the mother of one child who attended a nursery called Ciudad de los Muchachos. The interviewee was a teenager who had recently started working at a textiles factory. She told the reporter: ‘If [the nursery] hadn’t admitted my children … I couldn’t have accepted the job I was offered and our problems would’ve got worse’.84 The account of this unnamed woman offers little sense of the wider sentiment of people in the barrio towards the nursery, yet it gives credence to the claim of Las Hijas to be supporting the local women. In a newspaper interview the Sister-director of the centre said: ‘To solve the problem it would be necessary to establish at least one nursery in every parish’.85

The nurseries facilitated women’s entry into waged labour, while the moral economy according to which the nuns acted served to mask the political aspect of their message. Purificación says about the Palomeras service that it was ‘solely and exclusively for us working mothers’.86 With this provision the nuns were implicitly presenting a challenge to Francoist rhetoric regarding the organization of the family and a critique of the lack of state services. The 1942 Labour Charter had outlawed the paid work of married women outside domestic service. Throughout the 1950s, women and employers increasingly bypassed this law, particularly in the textile industry. Yet Francoist rhetoric continued to compare women’s work to a social plague, even after a law was passed in 1961 that authorized the paid labour of married women with their husband’s permission.87 The nuns suggested that the exigencies of demographic change in the barrios compelled their intervention so they could maintain the habit that women mother and that children receive care.

The establishment of nurseries sent another message to the local authorities: that the populations living in precarious circumstances on the outskirts of Madrid could stay and were entitled to better conditions. The nurseries were established in the context of the urban planning department in Madrid (la comisaría) making it increasingly difficult for migrant families to remain in the chabolas.88 The spirituality and gendered identities of the religious othermothers helped them to overcome what would otherwise have seemed overtly political and oppositional demands on behalf of barrio mothers. The nuns were so successful that Marisa de Polo Franco, Franco’s own wife, inaugurated a nursery established by nuns in the barrio Orcasitas in 1963.89

Some Catholic social workers even challenged Francoist policy from within state institutions. From the mid-1950s the comisaría began employing Catholic social workers, trained in one of three religious schools for social work, to report on the conditions of the barrios.90 They were hired on the assumption that their sex made them better mediators between the supposedly private home and the public institution. Yet the reports of one social worker, Fuencisla de Haro, show her going beyond the rubric of her role to advocate on behalf of those she met. Fuencisla wrote hundreds of reports from 1956 to 1963, sometimes overtly criticizing her employer. There is no further information about Fuencisla than her name but her reports detail the ‘hideous conditions’ of families across Madrid.91

Fuencisla stressed that housing was a pressing need. She frequently suggested that the comisaría provide homes for those she met based on their circumstances. One family she advocated for lived in a tripe factory in insalubrious conditions, and others already suffered ill health.92 In March 1961 Fuencisla’s report transcended the boundaries of her role. She wrote of her visit to the Madrid barrio San Fermin: ‘This morning Petra Morales presented herself [to me] with the following’. She proceeded to depict a complex situation in which Eduardo — Petra’s long-term partner — had left Petra and her children ‘on the street’, despite the fact that Petra had originally owned the chabola they shared. Fuencisla wrote that Eduardo had ‘capitalised from Petra being at work to name himself as property holder’.93

A civil servant for the comisaría responded in handwriting: ‘The chabolas don’t belong to anyone because they were illegal from the start’.94 In another report of the barrio Orcasitas, also from 1961, Fuencisla described the situation of eleven people occupying one chabola as the reason that they deserved another home. This time the scrawled response states: ‘If the comisaría hasn’t already expropriated it then there’s nothing to be done. They should find themselves another home’.95 Fuencisla’s reports show that some state-employed religious women viewed the built environment as a site of contestation in which to intervene.

The international and ideological context helps explain the actions of Fuencisla and the nuns, but the spaces and exchanges they shared with barrio residents influenced how they engaged.96 The lack of data on the residents’ interpretations of these religious women leaves the picture incomplete.97 Yet their exchanges helped change the physicality of urbanizing Madrid and contributed to the emergence of women’s political participation.

The role of space and spirituality also shaped interactions between women activists and their local priests. The church’s physicality — its location within the neighbourhood, and the gendered dynamics of the barrios themselves — all inflected how interactions between these two parties unfolded. The geographer Doreen Massey argued that spaces are not fixed but have mutable, fluctuating meanings. She drew on an established body of literature on the social production of space and urged more researchers to explore how people’s relationships to and within particular places act to recreate and reproduce their meanings.98 This analytical lens helps clarify how the churches’ meaning remained in flux throughout the 1960s, oscillating between being a sacred and an educational space, and a place of protest.


In 1957, Padre Gabriel Rosón Alonso moved to Palomeras Bajas to evangelize in one of Madrid’s marginalized neighbourhoods. Padre Gabriel came from an elite family in Palencia. He trained in Salamanca’s clerical school in the 1950s before moving to Madrid’s barrios. Gabriel chose Palomeras because he was ‘following in the footsteps of Padre José-Maria de Llanos’.99 Padre Llanos was still a well-known and reliable ally to Franco in the 1950s but would become a voice of Marxist dissent by the mid-1970s. Llanos received ecclesiastical training in Belgium during the civil war and moved to the Madrid neighbourhood El Pozo del Tio Reimundo in 1954, ‘to live among the working-classes’.100 Gabriel was partly emulating him when he moved to Palomeras and established a makeshift church, akin to Paca’s nursery, and based among the chabolas.

Padres Llanos and Gabriel belonged to an international trend of ‘worker priests’. This had developed in the mid-twentieth century, particularly in Belgium, France, Italy and Latin America, and was linked to the movement that the Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutiérrez later referred to as ‘liberation theology’.101 By the late 1960s Spain included hundreds of priests who were often known as curas obreras (worker priests) for their social and political commitment to their local communities.102 In Asturias and Madrid, the gendered dynamics of the neighbourhoods helped cultivate unlikely alliances between the priests and female activists in the 1960s. A growing number of women were entering work outside the home. Yet they continued to be more present than men in all of the towns and barrios during the weekdays, and the priest moved within largely homosocial feminine spaces, meaning places in which women predominated. In Palomeras Bajas, the barrio activists approached Padre Gabriel soon after his arrival and he began to accompany them in their protests about water-based issues in the early 1960s. They also asked him for help with the flooding in their chabolas. Purificación Alarcón recalls Padre Gabriel joining their march to the town hall to demand better water services: ‘Padre Gabriel went and, I’m not sure, thirty or twenty or twenty-something women’.103 She laughs as she recalls him having once spent days with them bailing water out of their homes after a flood.104 The experience of urban informality that Padre Gabriel shared with the Palomeras residents, and particularly the women, shaped how he engaged with the neighbourhood.

Gendered spatial conventions also determined why women chose to meet in the church. This was the case on the estate of La Luz in the Asturian city, Avilés. Padre José Luis Menéndez established a parish in the basement of one of its blocks in 1963. One activist explains that she and others met in the church because it was the only public space available to them: ‘Men had the bars … but women didn’t have anything’.105 Another recalls that her husband had always accompanied her to Mass in their former village but he stopped going when they moved to the estate because he was scared of being mocked at the steelworks: ‘When we were in the barrio they [the men] wouldn’t go to Mass ’cos it became a thing — “you’re righteous” they’d say in the factory’.106

Barrio activists also chose to gather in churches because of their perceived spiritual authority. In La Calzada, a Gijón barrio built in the early twentieth century, a group of residents met in the church to discuss the question of a school, the nearest being miles away. Angela Fanjul González had a daughter and recalls that she and other parents felt: ‘We couldn’t study because of the war but we wanted our children to go to school there’.107 The group was predominantly female but included a male doctor, and residents were drawn from migrant communities and established local families. They chose to meet in the church because they thought it would be a refuge from the patrolling guardia civil. The doctor once returned home to find his dog decapitated as the authorities ‘didn’t want him attending the meetings’.108 Yet the doctor continued gathering in the church, and the guardia civil never entered it, suggesting the perceived moral sanctity of the church space and the maternal role.

The motherwork of the La Calzada group helped transform their local church into an educational facility. They persuaded the priest to teach their children after several months of meetings in 1964. Together they convinced the archbishop in Oviedo to establish a school in the neighbourhood a year later, known as the Catholic school. Other Asturian activists also redefined the church into a space from which to offer educational opportunities. Padre José Luis, within a year of his moving to La Luz, asked the steelworks to provide furniture to establish a ‘feminine school’ in another basement.109 Ensidesa donated new tables and chairs in 1965, as shown in Plate 11. The school initially had a paternalistic strand as residents recall the priest providing parenting classes.110 But the activists also stress that the presence of the school changed their experience of the neighbourhood. One resident says: ‘Don José Luis [the priest] … he hooked you in straight away … The first thing he did was form a group so we could set ourselves up a little, and, and they started to hold short courses too’.111 Elena Solís, who attended the school in the early 1970s, feels it was formative to her activist career.

10. ‘The March of the Basins’, 1967. Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Maricusa Argüelles Pérez, from her private collection.
11. Furniture provided by Ensidesa for the Centro Cultural Feminino, 3 Aug. 1965. Photographer unknown. Source: Part of note ‘Comunicación interior’, from José Luis Martín (Ensidesa) to José Luis Menéndez (the priest)’, Archivo Histórico de Asturias (AHA), Fondo Ensidesa, C.131.948. With thanks to AHA for granting me permission to use these images without charge.
12. Children in La Luz. Photographer and date unknown. Source: Asociación de Vecinos La Luz, La Luz: nuestro barrio, nuestros recuerdos (Avilés, 2013). Courtesy of the Asociación de Vecinos La Luz, Avilés (La Luz Neighbourhood Association).

Groups of Asturian women also received support from priests and bishops in temporarily converting religious spaces into sites of protest in the late 1960s. In 1969, a group of about one hundred women occupied the cathedral in Oviedo for several days, demanding political amnesty for imprisoned miners and better living conditions. Police reports show the local authorities communicating with the occupants through the archbishop.112 This was the first of several occupations of the Oviedo cathedral led by women, often with the permission if not the support of ecclesiastical authorities. Maricusa Argüelles Pérez and her friend Aida Fuentes Concheso, who also lived in the Asturian mining town of Barredos, joined in a later cathedral occupation and recall the archbishop lending them a radiator.113 Aida and Maricusa’s local priest also gave them candles for a vigil staged by residents outside their town hall in 1969, which led to better electricity provision. Men joined this protest for electricity, unlike the water march, but it was women who approached the priest.

Female grassroots activists had started, with the help of religious figures, to transform their local surroundings by 1970. Their actions reflected the emergence of relatively extensive activism in each of the places considered. The groups inhabiting these places each had different afterlives: some dissolved after achieving material change, which was the case with the La Calzada school collective and the housewives who petitioned for water in Gijón; others crystallized into more official organizations after they had demanded their first cosa básica. Elena relays that action fostered further action in La Luz, as the gardens meant that ‘small collectives began to emerge in each block … it was a beautiful thing to see’.114 The estate’s residents established a formal neighbourhood association in the early 1970s, which included men but in which women continued to play a leading role into the 1980s, especially in relation to issues such as demanding access to contraception and abortion. The trajectory of this collective, as of those in Palomeras Bajas, Barredos and the other places explored, lies beyond this article’s scope.115 Yet the actions undertaken by women based in marginal spaces yielded significant consequences both politically and geographically, whether or not they remained active or dissolved after having achieved an initial material success.

Women had begun to mobilize politically on a widespread scale within their communities, in many cases before men, and they had helped transform their surroundings. Despite these implications, Elena’s question at the end of the oral history interview, about whether or not she should have had children, suggests that it was not always easy for these women to see themselves as militants and in a straightforward manner take pride in their actions. It is to this set of themes that I now turn, asking how those who fought for urban change under Franco saw themselves in relation to their motherwork and how they defined themselves intergenerationally.116


The narrators — the interviewees — often establish their identities in the oral history interviews by distancing themselves from their mothers. This is the case whether they were based in Asturias or Madrid, and whether they were born in the 1920s, 1930s or 1940s. They depict their mothers as inhibited, easily intimidated, and nervous of the social world. Angela, who demanded the school in La Calzada, recalls: ‘My mother talked about the post-war period with genuine terror … you couldn’t trust the next-door neighbour’.117 The Palomeras activist Dioni Morcuende Núñez also explains that, ‘my mother was very delicate, much more than I am … she was fragile’.118 Aida, from the Asturian mining area, says: ‘My mother, after [the Nationalists] killed my father, she turned away from everything. She was very scared’. Even Maricusa, whose mother joined strike solidarity groups, emphasizes that her mother was ‘not outspoken’.119

Such descriptions frame the narrators’ life stories, bringing into relief the contrast between their activism and their mothers’ passivity. Yet the narrators do not reject their mothers’ femininity entirely, as did the women Luisa Passerini interviewed for her seminal oral history on Italian 1968 activists. Passerini’s subjects self-defined against the identities they felt their mothers embodied: tough head-of-household or meek housewife.120 By contrast, the Spanish activists depict themselves as retaining elements of the established cultural model of womanhood while rejecting others. They often describe their endeavours in terms of caregiving, for example when Lucía Ribote Cob says the water protests in Palomeras ‘succeeded in getting what we all really needed’.121

The activists paint themselves as having adopted a caregiving identity but adapted it from their mothers’ performance of this role. They moved it beyond ensuring the safety and survival of their families, so it involved providing for their neighbourhoods and garnering resources for the next generations. Maricusa describes how their actions created ‘a kind of thinking in the pueblo’. She continues by impersonating her neighbours: ‘Be careful, it’s the women from the association’.122 Angela also underscores the radicalism of their efforts to ensure La Calzada had a school: ‘We started a kind of, a revolution in the neighbourhood’s church’.123 Maricusa and Angela both establish distance between themselves and the comments they make; Maricusa by invoking the voices of others and Angela through the elliptical pause that anticipates ‘revolution’. It is as if they do not quite own these words. While the two women believe they helped shape their local surroundings, describing themselves as trailblazers does not flow from them with ease.

Yet the narrators fluently extol their grandmothers’ pioneering qualities. They depict their grandmothers as having been strong and rebellious while also caring, compassionate and beloved by their neighbours, and they stress their capacities to cope. Angela recalls hers as ‘a real ground-breaker’, while Maricusa says hers was ‘very radical, with a lot of guts’.124 Both she and Maricusa describe their grandmothers as their ‘idols’.125 Aida depicts her grandmother as ‘cherished by the village because she’d always helped other women when they had babies’.126 She also summarizes the feelings she and others have about their grandmothers: ‘It was the care they gave … our mothers too but our grandmothers were special’. Maricusa tells a story about when her grandmother worked in the launderette of the local mine: ‘There they would always try it on with her. Until one day she grabbed one of them by the balls and threw him out’.127

There is a pattern in how the activists attribute such an array of positive qualities to their grandmothers, the significance of which can be understood by deploying the psychoanalytic concept of projective identification.128 Melanie Klein developed this concept to describe one of several mechanisms people employ to manage anxieties.129 Klein, building on Sigmund Freud, argued that people often split good and bad parts of themselves, as they sever love and hate, to cope with or defend against difficult emotions.130 She described how they then project the split-off parts onto (or in her words ‘into’) another person, in whom they identify such traits. This means they retain a relationship with the split-off part of themselves they have identified in another, so that they can continue to defend against and avoid whatever is causing them anxiety.

While theorists often focus on how people projectively identify negative qualities, Klein stressed that such processes also involve people projecting things they ‘loved and admired’ into others, so that they ‘contain good parts of the self’.131 She resolved that such processes illuminate how people ‘idealize’ others and see them as ‘wholly good’.132 The queer theorist Eve Sedgwick saw projective identification as invaluable for studying social movements and explaining how people feel ‘joined with others in an urgent cause’.133

The activists find legitimacy through joining the stories about their activism with those of their grandmothers’ lives, as if they shared the same cause. Yet they often talk about their grandmothers more fluidly than they do about themselves. They depict these older relatives as ‘wholly good’; as simultaneously maternal and caring, brave, outspoken and autonomous, qualities often considered to contrast one another. Aida says: ‘She worked a lot of jobs because her husband died when she was really young. He died in a flood and she was left alone with eight children. So for example she made trousers, she worked as a seamstress and sewed for people in the village’.134 Dioni recalls that her grandmother could read and write and describes her as ‘very cultured for those times’. She continues, ‘she would fetch milk every day to sell … and she’d look after the ranch, her things, her children, her house, her, she was very adept, very adept, yes, she had five children, five children and she raised them all’.135

Dioni and the other narrators present the lives of their grandmothers as having followed smooth arcs. They do not dwell on the decisions their relatives had to take, and the parallel paths open to them, but instead portray their actions, their motherwork, as having made sense according to their identities. The activists depict their grandmothers’ subjectivities as coherent despite their many composite parts. While they describe their grandmothers as having suffered, they suggest that no tensions derived from their being both caring and rebellious. Presenting idealized versions of their grandmothers appears to help the narrators construct their identities and to manage conflict, anxieties and tension elicited from accounts of their former selves.

The grandmother descriptions raise questions about what activists were avoiding. Maricusa’s description of occupying the cathedral offers insight into one possible answer.

I had a little boy, new-born, and I had to leave him at home … When they talk about breastfeeding, the myth of breastfeeding, it drives me mad … I always say that my son didn’t breastfeed because I had to work and lock myself in [the cathedral] and he came out wonderfully! (bangs the table) It didn’t worry me … what worried me was … changing the world!136

Maricusa’s tone betrays more of a troubled relationship with her past decision than her words alone reveal. She appears to be defending against feelings of guilt and engaged in an internal dialogue with those she feels criticized her for putting ‘the world’ above her son. Penny Summerfield uses ‘discomposure’ to describe instances when interviewees lose their composure and struggle to compose coherent narratives, such as Maricusa’s banging the table.137 These moments suggest the interviewee is recalling something that makes competing parts of their subjectivity clash, as if recounting their life is summoning rival selves from their past or present.

Maricusa’s anecdote about the cathedral equates to a moment of discomposure, as she swings between describing the past and drawing on more present discussions. She becomes similarly discomposed when later describing the actions she and others undertook to demand a nursery, relating this memory to perceived criticisms of women using childcare. Yet, as with Elena’s question about whether she had made the right decisions, the source of those feelings is unclear. They could derive from Maricusa having previously felt attacked or scorned, or they could come from cultural discourses in currency either at the time of the events or later.138 Maricusa’s projection of positive traits onto her grandmother helps her to manage the discomposure. She projects qualities into the trajectory of her grandmother’s life, qualities that sit together uneasily within her own life story: being both caring and maternal and active within the public world. This allows her to regain a sense of composure, as she does not have to face the frictions that arise from the process of detailing her own life history.

The Madrid militant Basilisa Ballesteros Marzal also evinces discomposure in an interview with the historian María Carmen García-Nieto París. Yet she does not project negative emotions and anxieties elsewhere to manage her feelings of becoming discomposed, and instead incorporates them into her narrative. Basilisa moved to the outskirts of the capital in 1957. She recalls:

I went for my children and that’s how we arrived in Palomeras … But we suffered a terrible tragedy with my daughter, who died seven months after we had arrived, just when she was her most beautiful. She got ill one afternoon and, the next day, at ten in the morning, she dies in the Hospital de Niño Jesus. We were up running around all night because this barrio was really bad for doctors. No telephones or taxis either. No taxis would come because it was full of swamps. Everything was complicated. It was a winter night that I don’t want to remember. It was the worst thing that could’ve happened … I didn’t care whether I lived or died, but I had to fight as I had two more children.139

Basilisa’s account communicates the sense that feelings of frustration and a loss of control continue to endure. The present tense — she dies — suggests Basilisa is still living the winter’s night she would rather forget. She partly blames the death of her daughter on the conditions of the barrio and a lack of state provision. Yet the circular structure of her narrative also indicates that, like Maricusa, she too feels guilt for the choices she made. She went to Palomeras for her children but this decision, in her eyes, rendered her unable to ensure their survival. She ends with her own fortitude like the others, yet the link between caregiving and providing resources for the neighbourhood weighs on Basilisa’s conscience, bound up with the tragedy and trauma of her daughter’s death.

The narrators’ discomposure, and their strategies for managing it, offer historical insight as much as other forms of evidence.140 The strategy used by many of the activists for managing this discomposure, of projecting qualities they admire into their grandmothers, points to shared anxieties about tensions between different scripts available to this group of women either at the time or later. These scripts rest on their being either caring and maternal or active and public in the world. It is hard for them to embody both sets of qualities, and they sometimes become stuck and lose their composure when trying to do so. These anxieties are historically contingent: they tell us about a particular set of pressures and expectations felt by a group of working-class women who organized in Franco’s Spain. Women from a similar social background who organized later may have told their lives differently, as may men who had organized at the same time, or more educated, middle-class female activists. The findings explored here show the pressures this group of people have faced and managed, and the language available to them to account for their choices.

The activists’ accounts collectively convey that they identify with a new and more active femininity. But the narrators also suggest that they found, and continue to find, distancing themselves from the previously dominant cultural model of womanhood had complex and contradictory consequences and was a fraught and loaded process. Their moments of discomposure indicate that they were not immune to certain paradoxes of politically mobilizing by defying some aspects of the mainstream model of femininity while identifying with its other parts. Their example points to the benefit of writing histories about the mobilization of care and the labours of motherwork in such a way as to give shape to the mutable, layered and complex subjectivities of the people involved.


The coalitions that women constructed to demand cosas básicas transformed parts of Asturias and Madrid. Their struggles, and the alliances they formed with grassroots church figures, brought about material change and help explain how diffuse women’s movements developed in Spain. They emerged amid the privations of poverty, the oppressions of Franco’s regime and significant levels of semi-literacy. In many places beyond Spain, whether democratic or not, the outskirts of towns and cities have also witnessed high concentrations of immigration, urban informality and a strong religious participation. These phenomena were key to the movements in Asturias and Madrid, but are not prominent among the themes typically considered in studies of feminism and social movements. Addressing these subjects might indicate further examples of how female militancy changed the built environment in the twentieth century, alongside shaping discursive, legal and cultural shifts. New urban histories would then also be needed: ones that account for the role of motherwork and caregiving, and that explore the moral economies and evolving self-perceptions of the people involved.


*I am grateful to the Cambridge Trust and King’s College for funding my doctoral research, on which this article draws, and to my examiners Celia Donert and Pamela Radcliff; thanks also to the archivists I consulted, particularly Ángel Argüelles; and to Lucy Delap, Merve Fejzula, Charlotte Johann, Temma Kaplan, James Morris, Tom Pye, Pedro Ramos Pinto, George Severs, Conrad Steel, Miriam Tobin, Amal Treacher Kabesh, participants at Cambridge’s modern European history seminar in February 2020, and members of King’s work-in-progress group. Special thanks to my interviewees, some of whom are no longer with us.

1 ‘Elija aquí su vivienda’, 1960, Archivo Histórico de Asturias (hereafter AHA), Fondo Ensidesa, Caja (hereafter C.) 132.120.2.
2 Elena Solís, b. 1944, Asturias, interviewed by Roseanna Webster, Avilés, 2 Nov. 2017. Elena was the only interviewee who chose to use a pseudonym. Elsewhere I include the interviewees’ first and second surnames in first references. For each interviewee I also include year, province and region of birth in the first reference. I use only their first name in subsequent references in the main text unless I am reintroducing them after several pages.
3 I am informed in my approach to using photographs by Erika Hanna, Snapshot Stories: Visuality, Photography, and the Social History of Ireland, 1922–2000 (Oxford, 2020).
4 ‘Elena’.
5 See, for example, Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney, ‘Militant Motherhood Re-Visited: Women’s Participation and Political Power in Argentina and Chile’, History Compass, v (2007); Seth Koven and Sonya Michel (eds.), Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of Welfare States (London, 1993).
6 For a recent survey, see Lucy Delap, Feminisms: A Global History (London, 2020). I follow Delap in seeing the activism described as contributing to histories of feminism while attending to the different ways that groups and individuals self-identified, which may not have been as feminists (p. 9).
7 Notable exceptions include: Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton, 2005), 57–73; Pieper Mooney, ‘Militant Motherhood Re-Visited’; Manuela Tavares, Feminismos Percursos e Desafios, 1947–2007 (Alfragide, 2011); Hillary Hiner, ‘Finding Feminism through Faith: Casa Yela, Popular Feminism, and the Women-Church Movement in Chile’, Latin American Perspectives, xlviii, (2021).
8 See, for example, Bonnie G. Smith (ed.), Global Feminisms since 1945 (Abingdon, 2000); Delap, Feminisms.
9 See, for example, Giulio Sapelli, Southern Europe since 1945: Tradition and Modernity in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey, trans. Ann Fuller (London, 1995).
10 Cited in Erik Swyngedouw, Liquid Power: Water and Contested Modernities in Spain, 1898–2010 (Cambridge, MA, 2015), 101.
11 This term is cited in ibid., 33.
12 For a recent overview, see Pamela Radcliff, ‘Unsettling the Iberian Transitions to Democracy of the 1970s’, in Javier Muñoz-Basols, Laura Lonsdale and Manuel Delgado (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Iberian Studies (London, 2017), 451–4. See also Javier Contreras-Becerra, ‘Movimiento vecinal y movimiento andalucista: construcción de la ciudadanía y aprendizaje democrático en Andalucía, 1963–1987’ (Univ. of Granada Ph.D. thesis, 2018).
13 For exceptions, see Claudia Cabrero Blanco, ‘El movimiento democrático de mujeres y las comunistas: de la resistencia antifranquista a la movilización feminista’, Nuestra Historia, iii (2017); Francisco Arriero Ranz, El movimiento democrático de mujeres: de la lucha contra Franco al feminismo, 1965–1985 (Madrid, 2017); Ivan Bordetas Jiménez, ‘Aportaciones del activismo femenino a la construcción del movimiento vecinal durante el tardofranquismo: algunos elementos para el debate’, Historia Contemporánea, liv (2017).
14 E. P. Thompson, ‘The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century’, Past and Present, no. 50 (Feb. 1971), 79. On critiques of Thompson’s theory by feminist anthropologists, see Ricardo Contreras and David Griffith, ‘Managing Migration, Managing Motherhood: The Moral Economy of Gendered Migration’, International Migration, l (2012), 52.
15 Patricia Hill Collins, ‘Shifting the Center: Race, Class, and Feminist Theorizing about Motherhood’, in Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Grace Chang and Linda Rennie Forcey (eds.), Mothering: Ideology, Experience, and Agency (New York, 1994); Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (London, 2000), 187–215. For a discussion of the wider intellectual context of these arguments, see Shatema Threadcraft, Intimate Justice: The Black Female Body and the Body Politic (Oxford, 2016), 10–15.
16 Sarah Knott, Mother: An Unconventional History (London, 2019), 203. See also the essays collated in Mothering’s Many Labours, ed. Sarah Knott and Emma Griffin (Past and Present Supplement no. 15, Oxford, 2020).
17 Collins, ‘Shifting the Center’, 50–1.
18 Kathleen J. L. Richmond, Women and Spanish Fascism: The Women’s Section of the Falange, 1934–1959 (London, 2003), 15; Mónica García-Fernández, ‘From National Catholicism to Romantic Love: The Politics of Love and Divorce in Franco’s Spain’, Contemporary European History, xxxi (2022), 4.
19 Inbal Ofer, Claiming the City and Contesting the State: Squatting, Community Formation and Democratization in Spain, 1955–1986 (London, 2017), 40; Francisco Andrés Burbano Trimiño, ‘La urbanización marginal durante el franquismo: el chabolismo madrileño, 1950–1960’, Hispania Nova, xviii (2020).
20 Josefina Cuesta Bustillo, ‘Las mujeres en las migraciones españolas contemporáneas’, Anales de Historia Contemporánea, xxiv (2008).
21 Antonio Herrera González de Molina et al., ‘Propuesta para una reinterpretación de la historia de Andalucía: recuperando la memoria democrática’, Ayer, lxxxv (2012), 73–96.
22 Gabriel Antonio Rosón Alonso (hereafter Gabriel), b. 1930, Palencia (Castile and León), interviewed by RW, Madrid, 26 Jan. 2018.
23 Charlotte Vorms, ‘Naming Madrid’s Working-Class Periphery, 1860–1970: The Construction of Urban Illegitimacy’, in Richard Harris and Charlotte Vorms (eds.), What’s in a Name? Talking about Urban Peripheries (Toronto, 2017). See also Adriana Laura Massidda, ‘Cómo nombrar a la informalidad urbana: una revisión de las definiciones en uso, sus implicaciones analíticas y su alcance’, Quid 16, x (2018).
24 See also Ofer, Claiming the City and Contesting the State, 60.
25 Carmen Villar Luque, b. 1939, Jaén (Andalusia), interviewed by María Carmen García-Nieto París (hereafter MCGNP), Madrid, 1988, cited in María Carmen García-Nieto París (ed.), La palabra de las mujeres: una propuesta didáctica para hacer historia, 1931–1990 (Madrid, 1991), 67. On deploying existing interviews, see Abigail Knight, Julia Brannen and Rebecca O’Connell, ‘Re-Using Community Oral History Sources on Food and Family Life in the First World War’, Oral History, xliii (2015).
26 Michael A. Neuman, The Imaginative Institution: Planning and Governance in Madrid (Farnham, 2010), 106.
27 Anonymous testimony (hereafter AT) of a La Luz resident, interviewed by the La Luz neighbourhood association between 2008 and 2012 in Avilés, cited in Asociación de Vecinos La Luz, La Luz: nuestro barrio, nuestros recuerdos (Avilés, 2013), 42.
28 Holm-Detlev Köhler, ‘La economía asturiana en el franquismo’, in Rubén Vega García (ed.), El movimiento obrero en Asturias durante el franquismo, 1937–1977 (Oviedo, 2013), 24.
29 María Ángeles Durán Heras, El trabajo de la mujer en España: un estudio sociológico (Madrid, 1972), 100.
30 Teresa María Ortega López (ed.), Jornaleras, campesinas y agricultoras: la historia agrarian desde una perspectiva de género (Zaragoza, 2015).
31 Dioni Morcuende Núñez, b. 1933, Ávila (Castile and León), interviewed by MCGNP, Madrid, 2 May 1988, Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica (hereafter CDMH), Seminario de Fuentes Orales de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, PHO, SFO, 11.
32 Dioni.
33 Pilar Díaz Sánchez, El trabajo de las mujeres en el textil madrileño: racionalización industrial y experiencias de género, 1959–1986 (Málaga, 2001).
34 Asociación de Vecinos La Luz, La Luz, 40.
35 AT, cited in ibid., 31.
36 AT, cited in ibid., 40.
37 Gabriel.
38 ‘Elena’.
39 Rosa Muñoz Parado, b. 1939, Cáceres (Extremadura), interviewed by MCGNP, Madrid, 1988, cited in García-Nieto París, La palabra de las mujeres, 72. See also Camarero, ‘En Vallecas se vende a 1,25 pesetas el cantaro’, Revista Careta (Madrid, 1957), 8.
40 Inés Hernández Rus, b. 1925, Jaén (Andalusia), interviewed by MCGNP, Madrid, 1988, cited in García-Nieto París, La palabra de las mujeres, 70–1.
41 Dioni.
42 Isabel García Gálvez, b. 1938, Madrid Province (New Castile — now Community of Madrid), interviewed by MCGNP, 21 Apr. 1992, CDMH, PHO, SFO, 2.
43 Purificación Alarcón Andújar, b. 1943, Cáceres (Extremadura), interviewed by unknown interviewer (hereafter UI), Madrid, 6 May 1988, CDMH, PHO, SFO, 133.
44 Purificación.
45 Isabel.
46 Josefa Rojas Copado, b. 1921, Jaén (Andalusia), interviewed by Mercedes Pardo Hernández, Madrid, 26 Apr. 1988, CDMH, PHO, SFO, 118.
47 Ofer, Claiming the City and Contesting the State, 82–108.
48 Purificación.
49,Lucía Ribote Cob, b. 1936, Burgos (Castile and León), interviewed by MCGNP, Madrid, 1988, cited in García-Nieto París, La palabra de las mujeres, 73–4.
50 Isabel.
51 Paca Sauquillo, Mirada de mujer (Barcelona, 2000), 73.
52 Purificación.
53 Lucía; Purificación.
54 ‘El agua, gota a gota’, ABC (Madrid, 1964), 17.
55 María Carmen García-Nieto París, ‘Palomeras: un barrio obrero de Madrid durante el Franquismo’ (1988), online edn (2007), available at <> (accessed 10 Apr. 2020).
56 Aida Fuentes Concheso, b. 1937, Asturias, and Maricusa Argüelles Pérez, b. 1947, Asturias, interviewed by RW, Pola de Laviana, Asturias, 3 Nov. 2017.
57 See also Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite and Natalie Thomlinson, ‘Vernacular Discourses of Gender Equality in Post-War British Working Class’, Past and Present, no. 254 (Feb. 2022).
58 Aida and Maricusa.
59 Claudia Cabrero Blanco, ‘El ejemplo de las asturianas: género, clase e identidad a través de la cultura política del PCE, 1937–1975’, in Vega García (ed.), El movimiento obrero en Asturias durante el franquismo, 111. See also, Matthew Kerry, ‘Radicalisation, Community and the Politics of Protest in the Spanish Second Republic: Asturias, 1931–34’, English Historical Review, cxxxii (2017), 324.
60 Irene Díaz Martínez and Rubén Vega García, ‘El ciclo de las grandes huelgas mineras, 1957–1964’, in Vega García, El movimiento obrero en Asturias durante el franquismo; Carme Molinero Ruiz and Pere Ysàs, ‘Las huelgas del 62 en la historiografía’, in Rubén Vega García (ed.), Las huelgas de 1962 en Asturias: hay una luz en Asturias (Gijón, 2002).
61 ‘Informe’, 13 May 1962, AHA, Fondo Guardia Civil Secretaria Particular (hereafter GCSP), C.22.619, fos. 2–3.
62 Ramón García Piñeiro, ‘La huelga del silencio: hojas del calendario’, in Rubén Vega García (ed.), Las huelgas de 1962 en España y su repercusión internacional: el camino que marcaba Asturias (Oviedo, 2002), 69–71.
63 ‘Informe’, 26 Apr. 1962, AHA, GCSP, C.22.619, fo. 1.
64 Ibid.
65 ‘Informe’, 30 Apr. 1962, AHA, GCSP, C.22.619, fos. 2–4.
66 ‘Informe’, 26 Apr. 1962, fo. 1; Maricusa and Aida. On such tactics, see Xavier Domènech Sampere, ‘La clase obrera bajo el franquismo: aproximación a sus elementos formativos’, Ayer, lxxxv (2012), 223.
67 ‘Informe’, 26 Apr. 1962, fo. 2.
68 Ibid.
69 Ramón García Piñeiro, ‘Mujeres en huelga’, in Vega García (ed.), Las huelgas de 1962 en España y su repercusión internacional, 245.
70 Cabrero Blanco, ‘El ejemplo de las asturianas’, 109–10.
71 ‘Boletín informativo de las mujeres Asturianas’, Jan. 1968, Mundo Femenino, 1 (2), Archivo Histórico del Partido Comunista de España, Fondo Publicaciónes Periódicas; cited in Cabrero Blanco, ‘El movimiento democrático de mujeres y las comunistas’, 85.
72 Thompson, ‘Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century’, 99.
73 ‘Los abajo firmantes’, 19 May 1967, Archivo Historico Municipal de Gijón, C.272.15. The uniformity of the signature style suggests that many of those signing the document were illiterate beyond knowing how to sign their name.
74 Gabriel.
75 Purificación.
76 Rafael Sanchez, ‘Faltan guarderías infantiles en Madrid’, Hoja del Lunes (Madrid, 23 Jan. 1961), 18.
77 Paul Ginsborg, ‘The Politics of the Family in Twentieth-Century Europe’, Contemporary European History, ix (2000), 426. See also, Alfonso Botti, Cielo y dinero: el nacionalcatolicismo en España, 1881–1975 (Madrid, 2008).
78 William James Callahan, The Catholic Church in Spain, 1875–1998 (Washington, DC, 2000), 498.
79 Feliciano Montero García, El movimiento católico en España (Salamanca, 1993).
80 On the relationship between Catholic internationalism, Francoism and colonialism, see David Brydan, Franco’s Internationalists: Social Experts and Spain’s Search for Legitimacy (Oxford, 2019), 136–69.
81 Gerd-Rainer Horn, Western European Liberation Theology: The First Wave, 1924–1959 (Oxford, 2008), 34.
82 Alana Harris (ed.), The Schism of ’68: Catholicism, Contraception and Humanae Vitae in Europe, 1945–1975 (Basingstoke, 2018), 4–7; Gerd-Rainer Horn, The Spirit of Vatican II (Oxford, 2015).
83 Cited in Harris, Schism of ’68, 4.
84 Sanchez, ‘Faltan guarderías infantiles en Madrid’, 18.
85 Ibid.
86 Purificación.
87 Richmond, Women and Spanish Fascism, 24.
88 Ofer, Claiming the City and Contesting the State, 19–39; Vorms, ‘Naming Madrid’s Working-Class Periphery’, 218–26.
89 ‘Una guardería para cien niños se inauguró ayer en Orcasitas’, Hoja del Lunes (Madrid, 14 Jan. 1963), 8.
90 ‘Asistiente’: social worker, prior to later denomination ‘trabajadora social’. On social work, see Maria Isabel Nebreda Roca, ‘El género del trabajo social: una reconstrucción genealógica’ (Univ. Complutense de Madrid Ph.D. thesis, 2019).
91 Maria Fuencisla de Haro (hereafter Fuencisla), ‘Informe’, 23 July 1963, various sites in Madrid, Archivo Regional de la Comunidad de Madrid (hereafter ARCM), Fondo COPLACO (hereafter FC), C.252538, 1.
92 Fuencisla, ‘Informe’, 18 Sept. 1963 and ‘Informe’, 2 May 1963, various sites in Madrid, ARCM, FC, 252538, 1.
93 Ibid.
94 Fuencisla, ‘Informe’, Mar. 1961, San Fermín: Madrid, ARCM, FC, C.252538, 1.
95 Fuencisla, ‘Informe’, Apr. 1961, Orcasitas: Madrid, ARCM, FC, C.252538, 1.
96 See also Pamela Beth Radcliff, ‘La iglesia católica y la transición a la democrácia: un nuevo punto de partida’, in Carolyn P. Boyd (ed.), Religión y estado en la España contemporánea (Madrid, 2007); Sara Martín Gutiérrez, ‘Católicas con conciencia de clase? Obreras y señoras de la Acción Católica Española en el franquismo: una historia de influencias y desavenencias en torno al género, la religión y la clase’, Pasado y Memoria: Revista de Historia Contemporánea, xx (2020).
97 For accounts of how philanthropic work has been experienced as a force of coercion and social control in different contexts, see Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals (London, 2019), 124–53; Helen McCarthy, Double Lives: A History of Working Motherhood (London, 2020), 33–5.
98 Doreen Massey, For Space (London, 2005). Thanks to Sam Wetherell for suggesting this book.
99 Gabriel.
100 Alejandro Coca, ‘Con el Padre Llanos, en El Pozo’, Mundo Obrero (1977), 6.
101 Gutiérrez made the remark in 1971, for which see Mario Aguilar, ‘Desde España a Chile y a Nicaragua en tiempos de revolución: los misioneros “Fidei Donum” en las décadas de los 70 y 80’, in José Ramón Rodríguez Lago and Natalia Núñez Bargueño (eds.), Más allá de los nacionalcatolicismos: redes transnacionales de los catolicismos hispánicos (Madrid, 2021), 449–66.
102 See also Julio Antonio Vaquero Iglesias, ‘Huelga e iglesia: obreros cristianos, sacerdotes y obispos ante el conflicto’, in Vega García (ed.), Las huelgas de 1962 en Asturias; Hilari Raguer Suñer, ‘La oposición cristiana al franquismo en Cataluña’, in Manuel Ortiz Heras and Damián A. González (eds.), De la cruzada al desenganche: la iglesia española entre el franquismo y la transición (Almeria, 2011); Nigel Townson, ‘Catholicism and Citizenship under the Franco Dictatorship’, in Tamar Groves et al., Social Movements and the Spanish Transition (London, 2017).
103 Purificación.
104 Ibid.
105 AT, cited in Asociación de Vecinos La Luz, La Luz, 53.
106 Ibid., 55.
107 Angela Fanjul González, b. 1935, Gijón, Asturias, interviewed by RW, Gijón, 22 Sept. 2017.
108 Ibid.
109 ‘Comunicación interior’, 3 Aug. 1965, AHA, Fondo Ensidesa, C.131.948.
110 On Francoist paternalism, see Mary Vincent, Spain, 1833–2002: People and State (Oxford, 2007), 168; Stephanie Wright, ‘Glorious Brothers, Unsuitable Lovers: Moroccan Veterans, Spanish Women, and the Mechanisms of Francoist Paternalism’, Journal of Contemporary History, lv (2020).
111 AT, cited in Asociación de Vecinos La Luz, La Luz, 54.
112 ‘Diligencias número 103 remitidas al Juzgado de Instrucción de Oviedo’, 14 Jan. 1969, cited in José Ramón Gómez Fouz, Clandestinos (Oviedo, 1999), 268–71.
113 Aida Fuentes Concheso and Maricusa Argüelles Pérez, interviewed by RW, 7 Nov. 2017 (second interview: ii hereafter).
114 ‘Elena’.
115 See also Roseanna Webster, ‘Reproductive Politics in the Barrios: The Long 1970s in Spain’, in Fiammetta Balestracci, Christina von Hodenberg and Isabel Richter (eds.), An Era of Value Change: The Seventies in Europe, Oxford Univ. Press, forthcoming.
116 For related work, see Gina Herrmann, ‘Voices of the Vanquished: Leftist Women and the Spanish Civil War’, Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, iv (2003); Carrie Hamilton, Women and ETA: The Gender Politics of Radical Basque Nationalism (Manchester, 2013); Eider de Dios Fernández, Sirvienta, empleada, trabajadora de hogar: género, clase e identidad en el franquismo y la transición a través del servicio doméstico, 1939–1995 (Málaga, 2018); David Beorlegui Zarranz, ‘Rememorando el devenir feminista: memoria y subjetividad política de la segunda ola del feminismo en el País Vasco’, Arenal: Revista de Historia de Mujeres, xxvii (2020); Sandra Blasco Lisa, ‘Entre la euforia y el desencanto: el significado de la autonomía en la construcción de subjetividades feministas en Aragón, 1977–1985’, Arenal: Revista de Historia de Mujeres, xxvii (2020).
117 Angela.
118 Dioni.
119 Aida and Maricusa.
120 Luisa Passerini, Autobiography of a Generation: Italy, 1968 (Middletown, 1996), 35–6.
121 Lucía.
122 Aida and Maricusa, ii.
123 Angela.
124 Aida and Maricusa.
125 Aida and Maricusa, ii.
126 Aida and Maricusa.
127 Ibid.
128 See also Roseanna Webster, ‘“A Spanish Housewife Is Your Next Door Neighbour”: British Women and the Spanish Civil War’, Gender and History, xxvii (2015).
129 Melanie Klein, ‘Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms’, in Envy and Gratitude and Other Works, 1946–1963 (London, 1993), 7–13.
130 Ibid., 2–4.
131 Ibid., 13.
132 Ibid., 7–13.
133 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, ‘Melanie Klein and the Difference Affect Makes’, in Janet Halley and Andrew Parker (eds.), After Sex?: On Writing since Queer Theory (Durham, NC, 2011), 296.
134 Aida and Maricusa, ii.
135 Dioni.
136 Aida and Maricusa, ii.
137 Penny Summerfield, Histories of the Self: Personal Narratives and Historical Practice (London, 2019), 110.
138 See also, Yuliya Hilevych and Caroline Rusterholz, ‘“Two Children to Make Ends Meet”: The Ideal Family Size, Parental Responsibilities and Costs of Children on Two Sides of the Iron Curtain during the Post-War Fertility Decline’, History of the Family, xxiii (2018), 419.
139 Basilisa Ballesteros, b. 1926, Cáceres (Extremadura) interviewed by MCGNP, Madrid, 1988, cited in García-Nieto París, La palabra de las mujeres, 79.
140 On strategies in oral history interviews, see Lynn Abrams, ‘Liberating the Female Self: Epiphanies, Conflict and Coherence in the Life Stories of Post-War British Women’, Social History, xxxix (2014).