Women and Charity in Spain, traces the evolution of the concept of women’s charity in Spain, specifically the way in which, beginning with the late Enlightenment period, women utilized the idea of feminine charity in their actions and words to assert themselves politically, economically and socially throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Spain.
It seems only natural to approach this project the way eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth-century women themselves approached it—that is, in a way that is multifaceted, multivalent, and uses multiple media. Women’s production about charity was creative (in their poems, novels and short stories), it was informative (in their organizational reports, and in their journalistic writings) and it was political (in their requests for support, and in their feminist or even anti-feminist treatises), and perhaps most importantly it was almost always a group effort. We hope to capture all those aspects in our project. Through an exhibition of important digital objects–images, facsimile texts, video and a searchable database– Dr. Elizabeth Franklin Lewis and research team of undergraduate students from the University of Mary Washington (a public liberal arts university in Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA) explore the ways women thought about, wrote about, and practiced charity from the late Enlightenment period to the early twentieth century.
Argentine novelist Julio Cortázar, in his “Table of Instructions” to his 1963 novel Rayuela (Hopscotch), conceived of a very dynamic relationship between author, text and reader, stating: “in its own way, this book consists of many books.” This project too invites the very active participation of the reader,/viewer, offering multiple approaches to the materials found on the site and inviting active participation in their use and interpretation.
Our exhibit is divided into the sections: “Women and Charity in Enlightenment Spain
” looks at the beginnings of women’s social action in the late Enlightenment period, beginning with the debate over women’s participation in the Royal Economic Society of Madrid and the establishment of the Junta de Damas.
Women’s work with orphans, educating young working-class girls, and working with the female inmates of the Galera prison was both a response to male ilustrado’s
interest in involving women in their plans for social and economic reform, as well as an expression of their own political and social agenda for women. The second exhibition–“From Frasquita Larrea to Concepción Arenal: Nineteenth-Century Women’s Charity”
–shows how upper-middle class women embraced their sentimental roles as the figurative mothers of Spanish society while they still pursued women’s rights to education, work, and medical care. Women’s charitable work also led them to be anti-war activists and to fight injustice for themselves and the poor. The last exhibit–“Voting Rights, Social Service and Women’s Charity in Spain 1931-1941
“–follows how both progressive women of the Second Republic and followers of the fascist Sección Femenina de la Falange
shared a belief that their work providing education and medical care to poor women and children helped advance their political convictions.
These three exhibitions present in image and text the multiple expressions of the importance of charity to women from the late Enlightenment period through the beginning of the Franco period. The primary texts, images, video and searchable databases displayed here are accompanied by student-authored introductory articles which place these objects in their historical context.
Our Project Team Members are:
Elizabeth Franklin Lewis, Professor of Spanish, University of Mary Washington
Lauren Guzinski, Spanish and Business student, University of Mary Washington (Spring-Fall 2011)
Carley McCready, Spanish student, University of Mary Washington (Spring-Fall 2011)
Lucia Morey, Spanish and Biology student, University of Mary Washington (Spring-Fall 2011)
Christian Vega, International Affairs student, University of Mary Washington (Spring-Fall 2011)
Sarah Abbot, Spanish student, University of Mary Washington (Spring 2012)
Madeline Albrittain, Spanish student, University of Mary Washington (Spring-Fall 2012)
Katie Lebling, Spanish student, University of Mary Washington (Spring-Fall 2012)
Lara Pugh, Spanish student, University of Mary Washington (Spring-Fall 2012)
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