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90 years of women’s suffrage: why Victoria Kent was as feminist as Clara Campoamor

Feminism (united and without surnames that appears so rarely) has now achieved a great consensus on the figure of Clara Campoamor, the woman who was key to the approval of the female vote on October 1, 1931 in the Republican Constitution and that made Spain the first country in Western Europe to allow women to exercise this right.

However, 90 years later, history continues to exalt Clara Campoamor with almost the same force with which he is responsible for locking her in the dungeon, like the bad guy in the movieto a great fighter for women’s rights: Victoria Kent.

The reason for this sidelong glance is the opposition speech he made in the Congress of Deputies against Campoamor’s proposal and in which he asked to delay the approval of the female vote until women were culturally and economically emancipated so that they could vote in total freedom.

Of course ‘La Kent’, as she was known throughout Madrid, She never said of herself that she was a feminist.However, she was responsible for breaking glass ceilings that, at that time, were dark prisons that prevented the intellectual development of women.

She illuminated them with determination. This Malaga native of humble origins was the first woman to obtain a law degree. Clara Campoamor and others would follow later. Although she learned to read and write from his mother, her family, which had a liberal conception, He made a great effort to send her to study high school in Madrid..

She, the only girl of five brothers, achieved the milestone of arriving alone in the capital to stay at the Residencia de Señoritas that María de Maeztu had created, the place where they lived more famous women per square meter in the history of Spain.

In 1920 he entered the Faculty of Law, but had to study unofficially. After four years of effort, she graduated in 1924 and asked to join the Madrid Bar Association, being the first woman to do so. The first female lawyer in Spain was also the first to have her own law firm and the first to act as a lawyer during a court martial before the Supreme Court of War and Navy.

It was in 1930 and with the famous case of the republican lawyer Álvaro de Albornoz, accused of instigating the Jaca rebellion. Her defense gave the relevance and notoriety that Victoria Kent deserved for her brilliance as a lawyer and speaker.

In fact, a year later She became one of the first three women elected deputies in the Spanish Congressalong with Clara Campoamor and Margarita Nelken, where appropriate, for the Radical Socialist Republican Party (PRRS).

Although the division of the left and the different currents that existed in Europe on women’s suffrage They placed her in the role of the woman who voted against women, her work for equality went beyond that vote in the years he was in the chamber.

He claimed that in that same Republican Constitution that recognized suffrage, salary equity between men and women was included in article 46, but it only got the regulation of women’s work approved without guaranteeing the same salary as men. It took many years for this achievement to be a constitutional right and the fight continues to make it simply a reality in the Spanish labor market.


The speech that led to criticism of feminism caught the attention of President Alcalá Zamora who invited her to becomeagain in the first female general director of Prisons in Spainand probably the entire world.

He had thoroughly imbibed the doctrine of another pioneer in this field, Concepción Arenal, and was willing to follow in his wake to conclude a revolutionary prison reform that was committed to social reintegration of the prisoners.

His decisions were unprecedented in Spain: eliminated chains and shackles, improved prison nutrition, established exit permits, conjugal visits, work workshops and even the right to read the press. “It was the most important task of my life,” she said.

They say about the Malagueña that even He showed what many politicians had not done in their lives: empathy. And they give as an example an anecdote that even Federico García Lorca himself narrated: two women came to ask him to leave her brother free for an hour to give the last kiss to her dying mother. Victoria Kent moved heaven and earth to achieve this, putting her own freedom as her pledge. The prisoner returned to prison an hour later, after leaving Kent a bouquet of violets at his house and having said goodbye to his deceased mother..

But Victoria Kent was a warrior too modern for the men around her. The church criticized the visits of the prisoners’ wives and was scandalized when it saw how lost power in prisons by replacing nuns with officials. The general director of Prisons had to resign, she had not already been re-elected as a deputy in 1933 and The Civil War finally took her away from Spain, although only physically because her only passion was her country..

Paris, Mexico… New York

In Paris, the first stop of his escape, She worked as a secretary at the Embassy where she helped house Republican children separated from their families. She was harassed by the Gestapo and wrote, as Madame Duvalhis only book: Four years in Paris.

He later arrived in Mexico where he taught Criminal Law and continued working to create a prison civil service. And in 1950, the UN signed her for the Social Defense Area, which caused her to move to New York., the city that hosted much of its social and work activity. There he founded, together with Salvador Madariaga, the magazine Iberia for Libertyunifier of an exile full of enormous talents.

He was able to return to Spain in 1977, with Franco already dead and fulfilling his promise.: “I have no other passion than Spain, but I will not return as long as there is no authentic freedom of opinion and association.”

Ten years later, on September 26, 1987, he died in New York.

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