article by Lauren Guzinski, University of Mary Washington
María Rosario Cepeda delivered her Elogio de la Reyna, Nuestra Señora, in 1797 at the tail end of the enlightenment. In the 18th century, it became custom for women in the Junta de Damas to deliver elogios to the queen every year. As their patron, the Junta honored her legacy annually through these elogios.
Eighteenth century Spain was a revolutionary time for the female intellectual. Spanish society saw the arguments of Feijoo arguing for a woman’s right to an education and Carlos III’s promotion of intellectual freedom through the education of young females. Highly intellectual women received degrees while still in their teens, such as María Isidría de Guzman who received a doctorate at 17. The “Junta de Damas” was a group of 14 females who embodied these societal elements. Their motto was “socorre enseñando;” literally bettering while teaching. They focused many of their efforts on charity through education and had many successful projects that changed more than concept in society (Lewis 7-12).
Cepeda was born January 10, 1756, in Cadíz to Don Francisco de Cepeda, alderman of the city (Serrano 268). As a child she was deemed gifted and received an education that involved a study of classic and romance languages as well as history (Jaffe 24). Her extensive knowledge in the arts and sciences lead to her recognition by the city (Serrano 268). Cepeda married General Gorostiza, with whom she relocated to Madrid (Quintanilla 129). In Madrid, Cepeda joined the original women in the Junta de Damas and served as the society’s second secretary (Jaffe 208). In 1816, Cepeda died at the age of 70 (Serrano 268).
Cepeda uses the article to capture the personality of “Agusta Reyna”, a positive public influence who was both a charming and dutiful figure for society. As queen she cared for the king and the well being of society and captured society’s attention through her caring personality. She used her influence to establish schools that had a political influence, but also a side of beneficence and moral education. Overall, Cepeda uses her Elogio to motivate society to mirror the Queen’s example and motivate charity among the general public (Cepeda1-16).
Glendenning, Nigel. A Literary History of Spain: The Eighteenth Century. Ernest Benn Limited. London. 1972. Print.
Jaffe, Catherine M., comp. Lewis, Elizabeth M.F., ed. Eve’s Enlightenment: Women’s Experience in Spain and Spanish America 1726- 1839. LSU Press. 2009. Print
Lewis, Elizabeth M.F. Women Writers in the Spanish Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness. Ashgate Publishing Company. Burlington, VT. 2004. Print
Cepeda y Gorostiza, María del Rosario. “Elogio de la Reyna N.S. “ Imprenta de Sancha. Madrid. 1797. Print.
Quintanilla, Paloma Fernandez.La Mujer Ilustrada en la España del Siglo XVIII. Ministro de Cultura. Madrid. 1981. Print.