Feminist thought in Spain is a uniquely engaging area of Spanish literary and philosophical history primarily due to the controversial attitude among Spanish women writers toward the term feminism. As the editors of this monumental study point out: “[n]o todas las escritoras españolas que incluimos aceptarían la etiqueta de ‘feminista’, la cual para muchas tiene connotaciones negativas” (13). By confronting head on the complex and at times contentious development of feminist thought in Spain, this anthology makes an innovative and valuable contribution to the field. The editors also point out that this is the first volume of feminist thought dedicated solely to the study of the philosophical and sociological development of [End Page 582] women’s condition in Spain. Other major anthologies important to the study of Spanish feminism have included Western European and North American writers.
The entries in this anthology are all essays focused on the historical and social conditions of women, which the editors agree present a more direct approach to Spanish feminism than literary excerpts or theory. Given these limitations, the authors do not include such important luminaries of feminist literary thought such as Carme Riera and her essay from 1982 “Literatura femenina: ¿Un lenguaje prestado?” or Laura Freixas’s Literatura y mujeres (2000). Nevertheless, Lucía Etxebarria’s La Eva futura and En brazos de la mujer fetiche are cited in a special appendix at the end of the anthology that lists works by feminist thinkers who do not have whole essays included in the main text. One can certainly forgive the peccadillo of not including an Etxebarria text in the volume but to exclude Carme Riera (one of five women ever voted into the Real Academia Española) from the text as well as from the appended list of names seems a far graver sin.
The introduction to the anthology concisely discusses the previous works that have been published about feminist thought in Spain, pointing out that many have focused on literary works or included foreign writers. The introduction also traces the development of feminist thought in Spain and expertly extracts what is unique about feminist philosophical thought, drawing on the country’s history and the undeniable influence of an overbearing, all-powerful Catholic Church. The insights about the Catholic Church and class system in Spain reveal the tensions between female independence and family that perhaps hindered the development of a more widespread feminist philosophical movement in the late nineteenth century such as England and the United States experienced. In these protestant countries groups of women were encouraged to gather for bible study, and from these meetings solidarity arose around pressing social issues, while in Spain the woman’s relationship to the Church was mediated by her confessor. The introduction is full of these kinds of interesting observations that help situate Spanish feminism within a global system of feminist thought. For example, the dramatic division of classes in Spain at the beginning of the twentieth century led some feminist thinkers to privilege class oppression of both men and women over the history of female oppression.
The anthology is organized chronologically in five sections titled “El primer feminismo ilustrado español (1726-1808),” “El ímpetu liberal y sus consecuencias (1808-1899),” “El feminismo español toma vuelo (1900-1939),” “Luces en la sombra (1939-1975),” and “Eclosión y diversidad del pensamiento feminista español (1975-2011).” There are a total of 43 essays covering the three centuries that include canonical texts such as Benito Jerónimo Feijoo’s “Defensa de mujeres,” Concepción Arenal’s “La educación de la mujer,” Carmen de Burgos’s “El derecho y la moda,” and Carmen Martin Gaite’s “La chica rara,” to name a few. However, the real value of this volume lies in the inclusion of lesser-known texts and the way in which the essays build on central themes such as class, family, and religion that contributed to the development, or lack thereof, of feminist thought in Spain. Some of these gems include “¿Feminismo católico...