This post is a collection of a series of posts that I prepared for my facebook page on the occasion of the 8th of March, the International Working Women’s Day. My purpose was just to bring the history of, mainly, anonymous women who are rarely remembered because they were women and normally from low social classes.
Puellae Gaditanae in Roman period
“Do you expect Cadiz girls singing in a chorus the lascivious songs of their country and, excited by the applause, they exaggerate their trembling hip movements” (Juvenal, roman poet from the 2nd century). These words are describing the Puellae gaditanae, female dancers from Betica, mainly from Gades, the present city of Cadiz. Some historians see in these women the predecessors of the female flamenco dancers.
Puellae gaditanae by Julio Ceballos
The scribes from Cordoba in times of Al-Andalus
During the reign of AlHakim II, 10th century, there were more than 170 erudite women in charge of writing, copying and translating books and manuscripts for the royal library in Cordoba and Medina Azahara. Lubna de Cordoba and Fatima were two of these women, both secretaries of the caliph.
Room of the women from Al Andalus. House of Sepharad, Cordoba. The poet Wallada on the left and Lubna on the right, by José Luis Muñoz.
The Andalusian witches in the times of the Inquisition
In general, witches were just women who were not married and they had to survive with the knowledge they had about plants, weeds or medicine. Cañizares and Camacha were two of the most famous witches in Andalusia.
The hungry riots in the 17th century
Spring of 1652. The hungry riot in Cordoba and the bread riot in Seville were led by women. Sick to death by the increase in the price of bread and wheat, women took the initiative in the rebellion after a child died due to starvation in San Lorenzo neighborhood. His mother, screaming and crying with her death son on her arms, asked for justice. Soon, more women and later men joined the group and the riot spread across Cordoba.
The cigar makers and the Industrial Revolution
When women replaced men in the tobacco factories, the cigarrera (female worker in the factories, the cigar maker) emerged as a picturesque type in art, literature and the popular imagination. The fictional Carmen from the novel by Prosper de Mérimée and the opera by Bizet, was a Sevillian cigarrera described as an attractive young woman who makes men fall in love with her at first sight.
But Carmen is just a myth. The workers of the tobacco factory were women who normally worked about 13 hours a day in the factory and also took care of their children and their homes. It was said they had a special bright in their eyes, and that was true. Thanks to the dust and pollution in the factory, they were almost crying all time.
They were also strong women who defended their rights and they were also afraid of losing their jobs. When they heard that Bonsack machines were bought to roll the cigarettes, they organised a protest in the factory. It was in March of 1855.
A group of cigarreras at the end of the 19th century.
In honor to a present feminist
The bookshop of Maria Fulmen was in the number 36 of Zaragoza St. in Seville, nowadays it is the head office of the Foundation Maria Fulmen. She was the owner of the only feminist bookshop in Seville, and it was a space to be in contact with other feminists. Maria and her modest bookshop were an example in the fight for the equality of women and in the lesbian activism. She donated all her belongings to the Foundation with the purpose to create “A common place that collects the thoughts that flourish in the borders of our imagination, either in the form of books, sculptures, paintings or ideas”.
Maria and her bookshop. Frame from the documentary “La Casa de las Sirenas” (The house of the mermaids) by Pepa Álvarez.
Header pic: Corral del Conde in 1924, Seville. Corrales were generally home to the lower social strata of society. Women used to wash clothes and other home stuff was washed in the fountain of the headquarter.
Are you visiting Andalusia? Maybe I can help you to organize your trip or I can be your guide. Penelope