Concepción Arenal: Spanish Feminist

The more that obstacles are broken down, the easier they are to vanquish.

Read more about Concepción Arenal's writings, though they are only available in Spanish the descriptions are in English (click here for more information and purchase).               

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Concepción Arenal was a Spanish feminist writer and activist. Born in Ferrol, Galicia, she excelled in literature and was the first woman to attend university in Spain. She was also a pioneer and founder of the feminist movement in Spain.

Arenal and her husband collaborated closely on the liberal newspaper Iberia until Fernando's death in 1859. Penniless she was forced to sell all her possessions in Armaño and moved into the house of violinist and composer Jesús de Monasterio in Potes, Cantabria, where in 1859 she founded the feminist group Conference of Saint Vincent de Paul in order to help the poor. Two years later the Academy of Moral Sciences and Politics awarded her a prize for her work "Beneficence, philanthropy and charity." It was the first time the Academy gave the prize to a woman.

Arenal's achievements were extraordinary in a largely traditional Spain, focusing her work on those marginalised in society. She wrote not only extensively on the state of prisons for both men and women, but also on the role of women in society in works such as La Mujer del Porvenir (1869), The Education of Women, The Current State of Women in Spain, The Work of Women, The Woman of the House (1883) and Domestic Service. It is this work which made her known as the founder of the feminist movement in Spain.