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

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  302 ratings  ·  21 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 Muje ...more
Paperback, 281 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by AK Press (first published May 1991)
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Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 go ...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
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
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O começo do livro foi bastante arrastado para mim, sobretudo porque não tenho familiaridade com a história espanhola e tampouco com o movimento anarquista. Contudo, uma vez ambientada (e com algumas consultas ao google e ao meu namorado), a organização Mulheres Livres me cativou imensamente. Foi fascinante para mim conhecer tantas ações práticas de um movimento revolucionário de uma magnitude tão grande como foi na década de 30 na Espanha. Acredito que o livro o retrate de forma real, não escond ...more
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.
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No sé ni cómo expresar lo mucho que he disfrutado leyendo este ensayo y aprendiendo sobre Mujeres Libres. Sólo decir que me ha removido mucho y se ha convertido en un imprescindible de mi estantería.
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating account of Mujeres Libres (translates to Free Women.) A anarchist women's organisation that existed in Spain from 1936 to 1939 and how they redefined feminism within the framework of anarcho syndicalism that existed in Spain at that time.

To be honest I had read nothing on Anarchist theory, history of movt etc. And this book didnt require anything as the author does a great job walking us through theory, arguments for and against wrt various left orgs at that time in Spain.
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.
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. ...more
Gustavo Pitz
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trabalho historiográfico primoroso, feito a partir de história oral, fontes jornalísticas das militantes, atas, cartas, etc. Mulheres Livres foi uma revista e depois uma Federação Nacional (1937-1939) anarquista que andava ao lado da Confederação Nacional do Trabalho e da Federação Anarquista Ibérica, criada por militantes anarquistas que participavam dos sindicatos e associações anarquistas mas que não se viam neles representadas (mesmo elas sendo metade da força de trabalho espanhola). No disc ...more
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.
Paula Bueno
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lo he utilizado para un trabajo de clase y me ha parecido increíble. Muy bien desarrollado, con fuentes y testimonios, explicado de una forma sencilla y que se entiende de maravilla. Se va a mis favoritos de esta temática, sin duda.
Jose M.
Es un buen libro de documentación acerca de este movimiento que surgió en los años de la guerra. Sin embargo, hay fases del libro que se hacen muy pesadas, llegando incluso a aburrir.
Barbara MacLean
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book documenting the work of Mujeres Libres - an anarchist women's organization in Spain in the 1930s. It's helpful, although not critical, that the reader have knowledge of the time period and major events of the Spanish Civil War and Spanish Revolution. The author writes with the assumption that the reader has this knowledge and, in my case, that was not true so I spent a fair amount of time looking up that history.

These women are so inspirational to me. Not only did they
Stacy Ferri
May 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
A must read for anyone interested in feminism. Very insightful.
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. relatio ...more
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. ...more
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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Jose Maria
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Dec 20, 2012
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105 likes · 17 comments
“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.” 10 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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