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Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  263 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Cowards don’t make history; and the women of Mujeres Libres (Free Women) were no cowards. Courageous enough to create revolutionary change in their daily lives, Mujeres Libres mobilized over 20,000 women into an organized network to strive for community, education, and equality for women -during the Spanish Revolution. Martha Ackelsberg writes a comprehensive study of ...more
Paperback, 281 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by AK Press (first published May 1991)
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Stian
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, owned-books, history
An extremely insightful book, which I think should be read by anyone interested in both the Spanish civil war and feminism. Martha Ackelsberg does a wonderful job here. There is a preface which includes conversations that the author had with women who were a part of Mujeres Libres; all very interesting. She then touches on the history of revolutionary left-wing thought in Spain and how it all came about in the first place. All this is done thoroughly, giving a decent understanding of what was ...more
Michael Schmidt
May 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: anarchism
At the Movement/Society Interface. A review of Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women, Martha Ackelsberg

Okay, shoot me now because this book had been sitting on my shelves for at least a handful of years before I got around to reading it. I am bone-deep ashamed at my delay – replicating in my own dumb way the reactionary “why are you dividing the movement?” response of Argentine anarchist men to the founding of La Voz de la Mujer (The Voice of the Woman) in
...more
Meg
Feb 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
What I really appreciated about this book is that it did not take for granted either a full knowledge of the Civil War or of libertarian/anarchist politics, but instead sought to familiarize the reader with each while at the same time treating its subject as thoroughly as possible. And I think it did a great job at that.

Acklesberg interviewed as many remaining women as she could find who participated in the women's libertarian group Mujeres Libres during the Spanish Civil War, to supplement what
...more
todd
Jun 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
this book is pretty useful in exploring some of the dynamics, challenges, and approaches to gendered organizing. It is a little redundant at times, lacks some detail that would be desired, but a good thing to read for those interested in taking feminism beyond the self-referential activist/middle class circles its in presently.
Chuck
Oct 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this book many years ago and enjoyed it a great deal. It provides fascinating information about Spain's pre-WWII revolutionary movement and also extremely interesting insights into how militants of both sexes struggled to make sense of different forms of domination.
Deric
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for any fan of anarchism, feminism, or the Spanish Civil War. Ackelsberg is an excellent scholar and fantastic theoretician.
Sugarpunksattack Mick
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Martha Ackelsberg's 'Free Women of Spain' is one of the best introductions to anarchism generally as well as the Spanish Civil war or Spanish Revolution. The book is academic in nature, but is extremely accessible because she articulates very clearly the definition of various terms that are being used in the ongoing debates throughout the book. The book gives a view of an organization that is often forgotten, yet is so important for many modern debates we still engage in: what is the role of the ...more
Carmilla Voiez
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
This is a great book about the Mujeres Libres or Free Women of Spain that looks critically at both libertarian movements centred only around class issues and feminism centred only around women’s liberation in a society in which very few are free. With interviews from the surviving founders and excerpts from articles taken from the Mujeres Libres magazine. It also looks at the surrounding politics of the period and the Spanish civil war.
Ronan
May 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anarchists, Feminists
Really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the focus on Capacitacion, although the tales of shitty anarchist men was a tad depressing. I also thought that the distinctions between the politics of Mujeres Libres and the feminist movement were very interesting. Mujeres Libres developed their politics from the position of anarchist women within a revolutionary workers movement. Thus, they managed to skip many of the issues that would create divisions in the feminist movement of the 60s & 70s, e.g. ...more
pippi
May 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: womenthings
it was a little boring and the author was really bent on considering the free women to be a feminist movement regardless if the free women themselves didn't want to associate themselves with the feminist community. so that was a little annoying.
James Tracy
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Bravo to AK Press for reprinting this important book. Insights in gender, class, and revolution are truly relevant today, 70 something years after the Spanish Revolution.
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“Direct action meant that the goal of any and all of these activities was to provide ways for people to get in touch with their own powers and capacities, to take back the power of naming themselves and their lives. It was to be distinguished from more conventional political activity even in a democratic system. Instead of attempting to make change by forming interest groups to pressure politicians, anarchists insisted that we learn to think and act for ourselves by joining together in organizations in which our experience, our perception, and our activity can guide and make the change. Knowledge does not precede experience, it flows from it: "We begin by deciding to work, and through working, we learn ... We will learn how to live in libertarian communism by living in it." People learn how to be free only by exercising freedom: "We are not going to find ourselves ... with people ready-made for the future ... Without the continued exercise of their faculties, there will be no free people ... The external revolution and the internal revolution presuppose one another, and they must be simultaneous in order to be successful.” 8 likes
“Freedom, or individual liberty, was a basic premise of the Spanish anarchist tradition. "Individual sovereignty" is a prime tenet of most anarchist writing; the free development of one' s individual potential is one of the basic "rights" to which all humans are born. Yet Spanish anarchists were firmly rooted in the communalist-anarchist tradition. For them, freedom was fundamentally a social product: the fullest expression of individuality and of creativity can be achieved only in and through community. As Carmen Conde (a teacher who was also active in Mujeres Libres) wrote, describing the relationship of individuality and community: "I and my truth; I and my faith ... And I for you, but without ever ceasing to be me, so that you can always be you. Because I don' t exist without your existence, but my existence is also indispensable to yours.” 6 likes
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