Role of women in the republican and nationalist camps in the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939
Conditions for most Spaniards especially women were not very promising before 1936. Women were very much oppressed and discriminated. Most of the rights favored men and women received very less if at all there was any for them. They were then living in very harsh conditions and they had no laws which could support them. Women worked in very poor conditions, they had to work for long hours without even having a break and at the end of the day, they had to settle for a very low pay. This was, if they could only finish the job within the time frame in which they had been given.
Studies from various research organizations indicate that between the year 1913-1922, the salaries and remuneration for men were raised by up to 107% while that for women were only raised by a mere 68%. The findings also indicate that during the same period, the prices for most of the commodities especially the basic needs had rose by 92% (Borkenau, 1963). This clearly indicates that men were favored more than women during this particular period. Almost a similar scenario occurred in the year 1931. This was the year in which an eight-hour working day was introduced to Agricultural workers.
This meant that there was a free time of up to four hours for the employees. The men during that time then used this free time by going to clubs and doing nothing but just gossiping and drinking. Women on the other hand were required to go back home so as to take care of the household duties such as doing some cleaning, preparing dinner and taking care of the kids. Infact the maternity leaves had been introduced but it had little to offer since the lucky known women were the only ones who benefited. But the rest lay ones had nothing to ask for.
Between the nationalist and the republican camps at the time of Spanish civil war (1936-1939), the role of women between the two warring communities differed greatly. The main reason was mainly because the nationalist were very much conservative as pertains to following doctrines and traditions of ancient times. These doctrines and traditions included the role of women and that of men in the society. They insisted that the role of women differed completely from that of men. On the other hand, Republicans did not view the gender roles from the same perspective as the Nationalists.
Republicans seemed to have seen beyond the traditions as they themselves believed that the role of men can also be for women and those for women can also be played by men. During this period therefore, the two warring communities had different views and perceptions as regard to the role of men and women. These then led to the emergence of revolution between the two communities and especially from the Republicans. Since Republicans had encouraged their women to take up men’s roles, most of the women started joining military so as to provide re-enforcement to their male counterparts especially during that time when war was at its peak.
Within no time, the women soldiers started emerging from the Republican camp and after some time, women soldiers started becoming an important feature in the Republican side. These women were armed with guns and other crude weapons and they wore overalls which were improvised to fit them. This was seen as insanity by the Nationalists since women as pertains to them were not suppose to wear such clothes leave alone arming themselves and going to war. Women soldiers since then were being recruited by the Republican camp.
Republican women in most occasions wore women as well as men’s clothes as a sign of transformation where women could as well take part in men’s jobs (Aquilar, Oakley, 2002). Women could therefore become politicians, drivers, doctors and even soldiers the job which is mostly seen as for men. Infact there was entry of republican women into politics at this time. There was also entry of women into parliament and they could even start voting and also could raise issues and mobilize people to support them. This led to the appointment of the first woman into ministerial position.
This historic moment happened on November 1936. Also, women in the Republican camp took various jobs in places where men usually dominated. They were employed in manufacturing firms, automotive and engineering companies in large numbers. The reason was mainly to replace the male counterparts who were busy fighting in the war. Such chores were not allowed to women in the Nationalist group. On the other hand, Nationalist did not allow their women to join their army. They insisted that the role of women were mainly to take care of all the chores at home while their husbands go to war.
Even though various campaigns were carried out in the Nationalist camp on issues pertaining to women, little effort was made since the priority mission of the community by then was to ensure that they won the war. Therefore the difference between the two warring communities in issues relating to the gender roles was very much bigger. Infact the Nationalist leaders stressed on the need for women to keep off men’s roles. They emphasized that women’s obligations was to give birth to children, take care of them and also be in charge of all the household duties.
Women were supposed to take care of their husbands but not to work with them or compete with them in vying for jobs specifically meant for men. Women were therefore taken by the Nationalist camp as subordinate to men since they were to provide subordinate duties to them. In this group, men were held in a very high esteem and first class jobs such as leadership positions, army and political positions were all preserved for them. While on the other hand, women’s roles and duties were to sire and to take care of the children and their husbands.
In times of war, they could not be allowed to put on trousers and to go to war like their fellow Republican women. During this time, they were required to put on dresses which are moderate. They were not allowed to put on any make up and if they were, they were suppose to put on very little of it. Nationalist also barred women from visiting entertainment places. These places included theatres and also video halls. Nationalist also differed very much in the issue regarding to divorce. For republicans, they considered divorce as acceptable and legal. They had therefore adopted it.
Nationalist on the other hand did not agree with what divorce was all about and they then rejected and abolished it. Also, Nationalist could not allow married women to take part in any form of employment. They were then not allowed to take part in any paid job. The reason was mainly to allow them to take part in their household duties and also to take care of the kids. The Nationalists also did away with mixed schools. They introduced boys’ schools and also girls’ schools. Girls were not usually taught what the boys were, and also boys were not taught what girls were.
Girls’ syllabus mainly dealt with social work and home science (De Menese, 2001). They underwent these courses because it was going to be their area of specialization. Boys on the other hand underwent sciences and engineering courses as they were supposed to take up jobs in factories, military and also in the transportation sector. Though there was clash on the responsibility of woman between Nationalist and the Republicans, there were common chores in which women from the two warring communities participated in during the time of war. Women from both communities suffered great losses as their children and husbands were killed in the war.
They also underwent hard times as there was violence and instability in the region. These hardships generated new and common roles for women from both sides. Women were mainly nursing and taking care of their children and husbands who had been injured while fighting in the war. They usually took the risk of nursing their loved ones in the field and sometimes they could take them to hospital. Infact the women initiated a relief aid organization so as to take care of the orphans and also to build camps which were to house the displaced (Preston,1994).
Women therefore joined these organizations so as to help take care of the needy. Those who feared and resisted were mobilized to do so. Conclusion: These two warring communities therefore had contrasting ideas as far as the gender roles were concerned. Republican fought for equal roles for men and women which represented a more advanced and democratic society. On the other hand, Nationalist believed in conservatism whereby they did not want to erode their cultural practices and traditions.
They viewed roles from a cultural perspective where each and every gender had its own prescribed roles and no one is to play the roles of the other. For republicans they could not withstand the wave of change and therefore, each and every role was for everyone to play. During the war time, abortion was very much accepted in the Republican camp. Again it was not taken well by the Nationalist as they did not believe in such acts. In the Republican camp, women including the young girls were allowed to put on clothes which were previously meant for men.
This was mainly because the roles they were undertaking at that moment were mainly those for men and therefore it required them to put on such clothes. Also various women were selected for top jobs which were previously held by men. It is therefore clear that the two warring communities greatly differed in their contexts of reasoning. One could not withstand change and the other resisted change. The two warring groups then represented two very different societies. The one who was going to win had a very big task ahead of bringing together the two communities so as to be one.