Partner América Barroso
Cementerio General de Valencia Valencia, Provincia de València, Valenciana, Spain
Lucía Sánchez Saornil (Madrid, 13 December 1895 – Valencia, 2 June 1970) was a Spanish poet, militant anarchist and feminist. She was active in the CNT and helped found Mujeres Libres; she wrote for numerous anarchist publications and edited the journal Threshold. She was part of the SIA in London with Emma Goldman, and she urged Goldman to return to Spain before leaving for Canada; she worked for Spanish refugee children in Paris. The Second Republic would usher in a period where women had more rights under the law, and where women were politically empowered for the first time. Homosexuality was also stripped from the penal code, though there were still ways for which lesbians could be charged, for example by being deemed dangerous to the state, or simply being detained by the state even if their behavior was not criminal. Prominent lesbians of this period included Lucía Sánchez Saornil, América Barroso, Margarita Xirgu, Irene Polo, Carmen de Burgos, María de Maeztu, Victoria Kent and Victoria Ocampo.
Raised by her impoverished, widowed father, Lucía attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. At a young age she began writing poetry and associated herself with the emerging Ultraist literary movement. By 1919, she had been published in a variety of journals, including Los Quijotes, Tableros, Plural, Manantial and La Gaceta Literaria. Working under a male pen name, she was able to explore lesbian themes at a time when homosexuality was criminalized and subject to censorship and punishment.
In 1931, Lucía Sánchez Saornil, who had been working as a telephone operator since 1916, participated in a strike by the anarcho-syndicalist labor union, Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), against Telefónica. The event was a turning point in her life, serving as an entry into political activism. From this point forward, Lucía dedicated herself to the struggle for anarchist social revolution.
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.
Lucía Sánchez Saornil and Emma Goldman
Writing in anarchist publications such as Earth and Freedom, the White Magazine and Workers' Solidarity, Lucía outlined her perspective as a feminist. Although quiet on the subject of birth control, she attacked the essentialism of gender roles in Spanish society. In this way, Lucía established herself as one of the most radical of voices among anarchist women, rejecting the ideal of female domesticity which remained largely unquestioned. In a series of articles for Workers' Solidarity, she boldly refuted Gregorio Marañón's identification of motherhood as the nucleus of female identity.
Dissatisfied with the chauvinistic prejudices of fellow republicans, Lucía Sánchez Saornil joined with two compañeras, Mercedes Comaposada and Amparo Poch y Gascón, to form Mujeres Libres in 1936. Mujeres Libres was an autonomous anarchist organization for women committed to a "double struggle" of women's liberation and social revolution. Lucía and other "Free Women" rejected the dominant view that gender equality would emerge naturally from a classless society. As the Spanish Civil War exploded, Mujeres Libres quickly grew to 30,000 members, organizing women's social spaces, schools, newspapers and daycare programs.
In 1937, while working in Valencia as the editor of the journal Threshold, Lucía met América Barroso, who would become her lifelong partner.
With the defeat of the Second Republic, Lucía and América were forced to flee to Paris, where Lucía continued her involvement in the SIA. With the fall of France to German forces, it was soon necessary for them to move again and they returned to Madrid in 1941 or 1942.
In Madrid, Lucía worked as a photo editor but quickly had to relocate again after being recognized as an anarchist partisan. She and América moved to Valencia where América had family. Due to the rise of fascism and Catholic moralism, their lesbian relationship now put them at significant personal danger and was maintained in secrecy. During this time, América worked in the Argentine consulate while Lucía continued her work as an editor until her death from cancer in 1970. During this time, her poetry demonstrates her mixed outlook, embracing both the pain of defeat and the affirmation of struggle. She left behind no memoir.
Lucía's tombstone epitaph in the General Cemetery of Valencia reads, "But is it true that hope has died?" ("¿Pero es verdad que la esperanza ha muerto?").
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