Clara Campoamor Rodríguez

* 1888 (Madrid) 1972 (Lausanne) Spain
Fields of activity: politician and women’s rights
Author: Elisa Chilet Rosell

Clara Campoamor Rodríguez


She was a Spanish politician, a defender of women’s rights, and one of the main driving forces behind women’s suffrage in Spain, which was achieved in 1931, and exercised by women for the first time in the 1933 elections. Clara Campoamor began working aged 13; she was a seamstress, a shop attendant, a telegraph assistant, a teacher for adults, a newspaper secretary and a translator. Aged 33, she returned to her secondary studies and at the age of 36 became a lawyer. She worked for women all her life. Campoamor died in Switzerland in 1972. 



1913: Clara qualified via open competition for a position as a shorthand teacher in the Adults’ School in Madrid. To increase her earnings, she also worked as a secretary for the manager of La Tribuna newspaper, a position that allowed her to meet people and where she started to take an interest in politics.

1916: She entered the Ateneo in Madrid (a Spanish cultural institution attended by notable figures such as presidents of the government, all the Spanish Nobel Laureates, politicians of the Second Republic and members of the Generation of ‘98, ‘14 and ‘27). She began to become known in feminist circles.

1920: She registered as a student in secondary school (which would last two years) and then in the Faculty of Law, where she obtained her degree in just two years.

1924: She became one of the few Spanish female lawyers. Her ideas on women’s equality brought her closer to the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) and she wrote the prologue of the book Feminismo Socialista (Socialist Feminism) by María Cambrils, dedicated to Pablo Iglesias. However, she never joined the party nor accepted its collaboration with the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (who had granted women the right to vote, but excluded prostitutes and married women).

1929: She remained very active as a lecturer in the Women’s University Association and in the Academy of Jurisprudence, always defending equal rights for women and political freedom. She worked in the beginning phases of Republican Action (Acción República), and appeared on the National Board at the start. However, she never achieved her strategic ideal: the union of all male and female republicans in one centre party.  

1930: The attempted republican revolt in Jaca took place. Campoamor defended some of the parties involved, one of whom was her brother Ignacio.

1931: When the Second Republic was announced, Clara Campoamor was elected a member of parliament —women could be elected, but could not vote— joining the lists of the Radical Party, of which she was a member on account of it claiming to be “republican, liberal, secular and democratic”: her own political ideology. She fought to establish non-discrimination on the grounds of gender, legal equality for sons and daughters born in and out of wedlock, divorce and universal suffrage, often called “women’s voting”. She achieved it all, except that regarding voting, which had to be debated in Parliament.

1931. The debate and passing of universal suffrage. Her own party and a considerable group from the left-wing parties opposed women’s suffrage because, in their opinion, women would give their vote to the right-wing parties since they were controlled by their fathers, husbands or confessors. Therefore, the Radical Socialist Party had Campoamor debate with another recognised member of parliament, Victoria Kent, who opposed women’s voting. Campoamor was considered to be the winner. Finally, women’s suffrage was passed with the support of a minority of the right-wing parties, the majority of the PSOE members of parliament —except in the group led by Indalecio Prieto— and some republicans.

1933: New legislative elections were held; the first in which women could vote. Clara Campoamor lost her seat.

1934: She left the Radical Party, but when, during that same year, she tried to join the Republican Left (a party that grouped together left-wing groups), she was denied admission.

1936: She wrote and published “Mi pecado mortal. El voto femenino y yo” (My mortal sin. Women’s voting and me), her testimony of the parliamentary struggles. The Spanish Civil War broke out and she went into exile in Lausanne (Switzerland).  

1937: She published “La revolución española vista por una republicana” (The Spanish revolution as seen by a republican) in Paris.

1938: She moved to Buenos Aires and earned a living by translating, holding conferences and writing biographies (Concepción Arenal, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Quevedo).

Decade of the 1940s: She tried to return to Spain but found that she was to be tried for belonging to a Masonic lodge.

1955: She left Argentina and moved back to Lausanne (Switzerland), working in a lawyer’s office until she lost her sight. She would never return to Spain. 

April 1972: She died of cancer. Her remains were moved some years after her death to the Polloe cemetery in San Sebastian (Gipuzkoa).


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