Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Dagmar Herzog

Committee Members

Helena Rosenblatt

Mary Gibson

Subject Categories

European History | Women's History


Spain, Feminism, Francoism, Transnational, Sección Femenina


This dissertation, through an examination of late-20th century Spanish feminism, analyzes how Spaniards’ anxieties about their nation’s post-Franco identity have influenced domestic debates about women’s rights and, eventually, gender equality policy. In this way debates about women’s rights have been central to Spaniards’ post-Franco political and cultural identity. I have also argued for a broader understanding of both the Sección Femenina and of Spanish feminism that places each in context of developments in Western European, and not just Spanish, culture and politics. The dissertation undertakes this argument over four chapters. Chapter One argues that unlike other elements within the Franco regime and despite outsiders’ perceptions of the organization, the Sección Femeninawas not an unusually repressive outlier either within its international networks or among its peers. Rather, in terms of women’s civic participation and economic rights, which were the group’s major areas of focus, the policies that the Sección Femeninapushed aligned with those of organizations like the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), as well as of prominent women’s groups in other European and Western nations. Chapter Two argues that, despite the Spanish government’s abolition of repressive Franco-era legislation that, for instance, criminalized female (but not male) adultery; its passage of feminist-friendly legislation; international sympathy for the plight of Spanish women; and leftist politicians self-identifying as feminist allies, the feminist movement itself had little political leverage in transition-era Spain. Chapter Three describes the shift from an international feminism driven by grassroots activists to an international feminism instead dominated by government-affiliated feminist organizations. Particularly in Spain, the creation of a federal women’s bureau, the Instituto de la Mujer, disrupted long-established feminist methods of protest and caused tension between grassroots campaigners and women in the Instituto. Lastly, Chapter Four examines domestic violence legislation as the first instance in which direct feminist influence, or at least direct institutional feminist influence, dramatically shaped a major piece of Spanish legislation. This was significant both for its impact on the rupture between feminist ideological camps as well as for its grounding in international tenets that feminists had long struggle to leverage for domestic change.