Friday, January 28

Carmen de Burgos, in a biography-dictionary

A dictionary is a very quick way to explain things. It is a very summarized summary of a way of seeing the world. So I thought it can work to tell a person’s biography in a few short lines.

A biography-dictionary fits very well in these times of fleeting attention and desperate rush. Because it is a biography in pim, pam, pum, which outlines a character in a minute and a half of scroll. Because it is a kind of #LearnWithTikTok: very fast, very short, telegraphic. And because it is a “short-cut biography”, said in words of the past.

To carry out the experiment, I looked for a character who had spent his life trying, searching, inventing … and Carmen de Burgos seemed perfect to me: one of the mainstays of Spanish feminism.

And above all, he fits into the ephemeris of the month, because he was born on December 10, 1867, 154 years ago, in the city of Almería.

This would be one of the possible dictionaries of your life.

Article 438:

Carmen de Burgos was fed up with denouncing an article of the Penal Code, 438, which exonerated the husband who killed his wife if he caught her “in the act” with another man. He denounced it in political and judicial forums during the first decades of the 20th century. And furthermore, it led him to a novel titled Article 438 because literature helps to put ourselves in the shoes of others and to remove our beliefs.

War correspondent:

She was the first Spanish woman journalist to travel to a battlefield to tell the war in a newspaper. The Herald of Madrid He sent her to the war in Melilla in 1909 on “humanitarian work” and she wrote a series of chronicles that portray in an extraordinary way the life of Spanish soldiers outside the trenches. Those nights when they sang and played guitar, those conversations about how much they missed their girlfriends …


In 1903 divorce was an unthinkable and almost unpronounceable thing in Spain, but Carmen de Burgos dared to raise the issue. He first did it in a weekly column titled The divorce lawsuit and later published the book Divorce in Spain with the opinions of the great voices of the moment: Unamuno, Pío Baroja, Pardo Bazán … It was necessary to shake that prudish atmosphere (or prude, as they said) and finally achieve this “conquest of civilization”.


There she was, the first, in front of the doors of the Congress of Deputies. In 1921 she organized the first feminist demonstration that was planted in Parliament with a document that called for the equality of men and women. Carmen de Burgos organized her as president of the Spanish Women’s Crusade and brought together many more feminist groups. The protest was in all the newspapers and the Herald He said: “It is the dawn of a serious feminist movement. (…) This first act of the Spanish suffragettes surprised the deputies and gave rise to funny scenes between them and the large group of young and pretty girls who at the door of the Congress distributed propaganda sheets. ”


The Conservative Party had Colombine between eyebrows and eyebrows. It was a public antipathy that ended in revenge when, in 1907, they took over the Government. Now this woman was going to find out, with her talks and her articles in favor of women’s freedom! She was assigned to Toledo as a teacher, because it was the city where there were more nuns and more priests, and there… Carmen de Burgos… heard something very strange. They told him that someone had sold two paintings by El Greco to a foreign buyer. He investigated it and found it to be true. He immediately wrote an article in which he said: “The Church with its consent, the State with its abandonment, the owners with their selfishness and the people with their indifference, all have contributed to this plundering of works of art.” The Church’s revenge against her was fine, but she managed to stop the secret sale of artistic pieces.


Carmen de Burgos published a spectacular book on feminism. Nothing like Modern women and their rights (1927) and even today it is essential to know the origins of feminism.

Conscientious objection:

Upon returning from the war in Melilla, he undertook a campaign against warfare and in favor of conscientious objection. The motto was War to war! And he prodded like this: “Are you religious? Listen to the voice of the great redeemers of humanity, Buddha, Christ; they condemn war.”


At the beginning of the 20th, women wrote at home and sent their articles to the newspapers. But in 1903, the Universal Journal hired Carmen de Burgos to work in the newsroom, along with the men, and, like them, to go out on the streets day and night to do reports and interviews. They signed her as editor (because even women didn’t say the word copywriter) and its director, Augusto Figueroa, suggested that she use the pseudonym by which she was known for the rest of her life: Colombine.


Carmen de Burgos took advantage of her trips to England and France to meet the suffragettes. The women of those countries were already throwing stones to demand the vote, but in Spain, for a woman to vote was crazy. In 1906, Colombine began to write a weekly column entitled ‘The Vow of Women’ to tell how they were getting it in the rest of Europe. “The illiterate and talented man has the right to vote and to set the course of his country. It is the case that an illiterate person casts the vote and a teacher cannot cast his vote,” he explained. “For reasons of sex alone, women are equated with madmen, imbeciles and criminals.” But nothing … There a year, and another, and a talk, and an article, and a demonstration … And women’s suffrage needed something as resounding as overthrowing a monarchy and establishing a republic for it to be approved. When it was finally collected by the 1931 Constitution, some newspapers recalled that, to get there, Colombine spent 25 years give it a go with the woman’s vote.