Depending on which continent you live, you may be unaware of lesbians on a different continent. Lastly, it is my intent to honour lesbians world-wide – past and present.
Back in Time to Spain
Lucía Sánchez Saornil was born on December 13, 1895 in Madrid, Spain. Financial woes were part of her upbringing when he mother died and her father struggled to provide the necessities for his family. Lucia had a gift for writing poetry.
By age 24 she had published in a variety of journals. She wrote under a male pen name that enabled her to explore lesbian themes. This was a dangerous topic as homosexuality was criminalized and subject to censorship and punishment.
Many minority groups that are censored revert to politics as a means to gaining recognition or freedom. Such was the case of Lucia who was employed as a telephone operator.
She participated in a labour movement in 1916 that targeted the telephone company – Telefónica. This was a turning point in Lucia’s life and she became an involved activist.
In fact, she dedicated her life to the struggle for anarchist social revolution.
Nearing the Spanish Civil War
In 1933, Lucía was appointed Writing Secretary for the CNT of Madrid, producing their journal in the run up to the Spanish Civil War. In May 1938, she became the General Secretary of the Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista (SIA), an anarchist aid organization similar to the Red Cross.
Earth, Freedom and Feminism
Lucia continued to write articles in anarchist publications such as “Earth and Freedom” and supporting workers’ solidarity issues. This was Catholic Spain and on issues of feminism she remained quiet on issues such as birth control. This did not prevent her from attacking the repressive roles of women in Spanish society.
Moving in Dangerous Waters
Working with a new organization Mujeres Libres (Free Women), in 1936 that advocated women’s liberation and social revolution. When the Civil War exploded Mujeres Libres membership rose to 30,000 members. They organized meetings, bonded to improve their lives, ran newspapers and daycare centres.
Working in Valencia, as editor of the journal threshold, Lucia met América Barroso, who would become her lifelong partner. (Could not find a photo of América!)
General Franco (Fascism) Wins Civil War
Franco with the support of the Catholic Church won the bitter civil war and Lucia and América Barroso, fled to Paris. When Paris fell to Hitler’s Fascism, both women returned to Madrid. However, Lucia was recognized and they fled to Valencia. The pressures of Facism and the morality of the Catholic Church forced the women to live apart. Both women supported themselves and each other by working.
Lucia died of cancer in 1970 at the age of 74. Her tombstone reads,
“But is it true that hope has died?”
Lucia Sanchez Saornil later died in 1970. Here is the poem she wrote in 1937 for Mujeres Libres:
“Fists upraised, women of Iberia
Towards horizons pregnant with light
on paths afire
feet on the ground
face to the blue sky.
Affirming the promise of life
we defy tradition
we mould the warm clay
of a new world born of pain.
Let the past vanish into nothingness!
What do we care for yesterday!
We want to write anew the word WOMAN.
Fists upraised, women of the world
towards the horizons pregnant with light
on path’s afire,onward towards the light.”