This Friday, October 1, marks the 90th anniversary of the approval of women's suffrage in the Second Republic, by 161 votes against 131 and after a memorable speech by Clara Campoamor in Parliament, who faced another of the great feminists of the time, Victoria Kent, who was also a suffragette, but thought that women were not yet ready to vote, due to their dependence on their husbands.
We already recommend the comic Clara Campoamor (Cascaborra), by the scriptwriter Rafael Jiménez and the cartoonist Meik (María Dolores Reyes), which is a wonderful biography of Clara. But today we are focusing on Una mujer, un vote (Garbuix Books), by the screenwriter Alicia Palmer and the cartoonist Montse Mazorriaga, which is a tribute to Clara, but also to all those women who were protagonists of the suffrage movement, such as the cigarette girls of the Royal Tobacco Factory of Madrid.
Alicia tells us why she wanted to give prominence to these cigarette makers:"I have always lived in the Embajadores neighborhood of Madrid. This neighborhood was founded around the Tobacco Factory, a company to which my paternal family was linked for For a long time, the first document that we keep dates from 1896 in the name of my great-grandfather, Vicente Palmer, and the last is the notification of dismissal and punishment to my grandfather, Gustavo Palmer, in 1939 by the Purification Commission of the Franco regime for the crime of "having been a director of the Tobacco Federation and UGT." On the other hand, for some years there have been neighborhood initiatives to value the social and gender struggle of the cigarette companies. There is a lot of documentation on the labor movement that they generated and the concern of their leaders for the cultural formation of the workers because in addition to a library and a school for adults, they even had a newspaper: Unión Tabacalera".
These cigarette women were pioneers in fighting for the right to reconcile maternity and work, among other things that Alicia tells us: "Their struggle, based on strikes and suffering, is comparable to that of the miners in that their The demands, in addition to demanding fairer wages, were aimed at demanding improvements in health and safety in a job that generated specific occupational diseases, due to the humidity and gloom conditions necessary for the treatment of tobacco leaves and the harmful effects on the environment. body due to continuous exposure to nicotine for long hours, this environment generated, among other disorders, ophthalmia that in many cases ended in blindness.To this we must add the imperative, at that time, to reconcile maternity and care for their loved ones by their status as women. In this regard, they obtained, among many other things, the authorization of a "nursery home" and lactation hours for the workers".
The cartoonist Montse Mazorriaga points out that it was at that time when women began to fight fiercely for their rights: "The majority of women were not at all involved in the wheel of conceptualizing feminism of a political or of a social nature. They were women who already had enough to survive in their day to day, and would not be fully involved. This would happen precisely, this involvement of working women, would come thanks to the advances that had occurred in their situation during the Republic. It would be at that time when they began to unionize, either in the CNT or the POUM, but previously it cannot be said that working women were involved in this movement."
Mari Luz will meet the great protagonist of that fight for women's rights, Clara Campoamor. Alicia Palmer highlights that her fight went far beyond that historic moment of October 1: "It is not just about the speech; in the comic we reflect her tenacity to be able to be in the drafting commission of the Constitution of the Second Republic and her fight from minute one in said commission, but it is that once the article that granted the right to vote for women by majority was approved on October 1, 1931, she had to defend it, as she tells us in her book El voto feminino y yo, mi mortal sin, on more occasions before the call for elections in 1933 in which women voted for the first time. I am inspired by her perseverance and endurance because she did not give up the fight despite being the only woman in the chamber to defend the vote and receive attacks inside and outside the chamber, even by colleagues from their own party".
Clara Campoamor vs. Victoria Kent
Recreating that famous speech and Campoamor's dialectical confrontation with Victoria Kent has been one of the most interesting things in comics for Montse Mazorriaga: "Political debates are always interesting and if you place them in 1931 in an environment of tension, of intense debate, and two women facing each other in their postulates, trying to position themselves and give voice to their approaches surrounded by men who are opposed to them, well I have to tell you that yes, it is one of the most exciting moments in comics and also one of the most complex to capture in cartoons, due to the dynamism of the moment, we had to find a distribution that was as suitable as possible and I think I got it".
"Campoamor, defender of the right to vote, will surprisingly meet another deputy, Victoria Kent, who is equally at odds in her postulates -adds the cartoonist-. Campoamor spoke of this natural equality between men and women, and if the Republic aspired to this modernization and democratization of the country, it was totally necessary for the other 50% of the population to be recognized.In contrast, Victoria Kent, thinking of an idea more of political interest, a more partisan idea, considered that women were not trained enough to be able to get rid of the ballast that this implied the figure of the Church, of the husband or the father. And all of this would tend to lead the Republic towards much more right-wing positions. This right was achieved because partisan readings would end up allowing it, but it is true that it was a fierce debate, in the number of votes it was very tight and with significant abstentionism, but finally, it is true that the most partisan ideas ended up tipping, luckily, the balance in favor of the right to women's suffrage".
Women were finally able to vote in the 1933 elections and, curiously, neither Clara Campoamor nor Victoria Kent managed to renew their seats. And when the Civil War broke out, Clara had to go into exile. "One of the things that they did not forgive him was the divorce law that he fought in Congress, as well as the investigation of paternity and equal rights for children outside and within marriage. He tried to return to Spain up to four times and his request was denied, the bitterness that not being able to return to his country generates in him is reflected in his writings: I feel enormously sorry for not going back to Spain, if I could take a walk there from time to time..."
A comic that invites us not to forget
Highlight the wonderful documentation that both authors manage and that includes numerous covers and newspaper pages that they have managed to ingest on the pages of the comic. "In addition to the works of Clara Campoamor, there is a lot of documentation available -says Alicia Palmer-, another thing is the interest in knowing that part of History that does not appear in textbooks: There are the minutes of sessions of the Congress on the dates indicated where all the interventions are recorded. In the BNE newspaper library (which is freely accessible) you look for, for example, publications from October 2, 1931 and you have the news of the approval of the vote with opinions of all colors. Then to In the years between 1929 and 1931, he also found university research studies where he could retrieve information on the participation of women in politics, such as the first female mayors or women in the National Assembly".
"On the subject of documentation -Montse confesses-, both Alicia and I have relied heavily on the digital sources of the National Newspaper Library, which thanks to the great work of document recovery from all periods that they have carried out, you can find newspapers, clippings, photographs...".
"Thanks to the creation of the comic, I have filled in the gaps that I had from those historical moments -confesses the cartoonist-, and not only from the periods of the first or second Republic, the period of Primo de Rivera... but from the great historical gaps and voids about the Spanish suffragette movement that I barely knew, and that in my student days did not even appear in some of the lessons, so I hope and wish that the readers approach this important stage of history and They are very curious to investigate about it. What I would like is that, beyond calling it a comic, this book would be seen as a great tool for the dissemination of history for the young generations. A graphic novel, yes, but after all, a book of history necessary to cover and close the gap in knowledge about suffragism and its consequences".
As for her projects, Alicia Palmer will return soon with another great woman in our history: "In October the comic about the biography of Emilia Pardo Bazán will be released with another publisher and another cartoonist with a very different style, Weronika Hańczyc, but the The script can be defined as a "prequel" to it. I'm also participating in a couple of choral projects with very powerful authors and I'm preparing another historical script."
And Montse Mazorriaga is also planning new projects about illustrious women: "Currently I am full-time promoting this graphic novel, and shortly I will start a collaboration about another woman very distant in the time in which Clara Campoamor is located, but very interesting and unknown too. And I have a graphic novel underway set at the beginning of the 20th century in which the story also plays an important role and in which the characters are very well known, in it we will also give birth to great unknown women. So the history of unknown or forgotten women, I will try to keep it going".