Guillaume Vanhulle presenting his research at the Literary Studies Workshop, Ghent University, 10 May 2016

Guillaume Vanhulle presenting his research at the Literary Studies Workshop, Ghent University, 10 May 2016

During my internship at WeChangEd I discovered many interesting Spanish (and Portuguese) women editors who tried to change the reigning ideology of womanhood in society. One of those women is Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer (1850-1919). She sparked my interest when I read that she edited a periodical in Mexico City as well as in Madrid. As you can read in my brief biography on the WeChangEd site, I’m very passionate about Mexico as well as its culture and literature. Another reason for my fascination for this editor is that she was a feminist and brought as, one of the first, feminism to Mexico.

Back to Concepción Gimeno: who was she? What did she write? How did she edit her two periodicals? What were her ideas on the situation of women in Spain and Latin America of her time? In what follows, I will explore some answers to these questions with you.

1

Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer (1850-1919)

Concepción Gimeno (or with the modern spelling Jimeno) was born in December  1852 or 1850 in Alcañiz, Aragón. However, she herself stated that she was born in 1860. She was schooled in Zaragoza, where her writing career started in 1869, with the publication of her first article “A los impugnadores del Bello Sexo”[1] published in El trovador del Ebro. The fact that she started her career with an article was very unusual for women in nineteenth-century Spain; most of them started writing poetry. She completed her education in Madrid. In the capital, she started attending tertulias (literary gatherings much like the Parisian salons) held by men of letters. The literary men of the tertulias supported her because of “her youth and espousal of the values and virtues of traditional womanhood […] even as she directly challenged commonplace disparagements of women and their capabilities.”[2] During her stay in Madrid she frequented the literary salon of duchess de la Torre where she met other important literary men and women (like Carolina Coronado). Gimeno was part of an informal community of literary women alongside Faustina Sáez de Melgar, Josefa Pujol de Collado and Sofía Tartilán.[3] Many of these women were also editors of some nineteenth- and twentieth-century periodicals.

Three years after her literary and periodical debut, she became one of the editors of a new women magazine: La Mujer founded and edited by Faustina Sáez de Melgar. At the same time, her articles were published in many Madrilenian newspapers as well as leading periodicals of the time such as Cádiz and El Correo de la moda. These experiences helped her in 1873 when she started her own periodical La Ilustración de la Mujer. Sofía Tartilán took over this periodical quickly.[4]

Example of the heading of La Ilustración de la mujer

Example of the heading of La Ilustración de la mujer

In 1879 she married Francisco de Paula Flaquer, a journalist. Gimeno adopted her husband’s surname “Flaquer” and signed her work “Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer”. “In this way, she foregrounded her status and respectability as a married woman, a practice adopted by many, but not all, women authors of her time.”[5] After their marriage, she travelled across Europe with her husband. During these trips, she met Victor Hugo and learned about the new cultural and literary tendencies. In 1883 the couple moved to Mexico where they would stay for six years. It was there that she founded and edited El Álbum de la mujer: Ilustración Hispano-Americana.[6]

Mexican society was (and still is) very male-oriented and machista. Therefore the magazines and periodicals of the end of the nineteenth century were impregnated with a manly spirit, including the women’s magazines. The latter told news about the Parisian salons and the fashion at the time. Mexican women grew bored of such magazines and the time had come to introduce real feminist periodicals. Gimeno de Flaquer went along with this idea when she created her periodical.[7] [8] She was conscious of the fact that women in Spain had more rights than Mexican women when she wrote “[…] en tanto que la mujer española vive luchando contra el terrible fanatismo, la mujer mexicana, inicia ya ese largo camino.”[9] This was another reason for her to publish and edit this magazine.

El Álbum de la mujer: Ilustración Hispano-Americana (The Woman’s Album, a Hispano-American Illustrated Magazine)[10] was published weekly between September 1883 and 1888 in Mexico City. Novels, scientific research, columns and fashion had a prominent role in the Album. Her collaborators were predominantly women but also some men such as Juan Valera, who was very positive about the Album and saw it as an opportunity to increase the number of readers in Latin America. Gimeno’s meeting with Victor Hugo turned out to be very rewarding, given that he decided to contribute to her magazine. By means of her album, she wanted to demonstrate that men and women are equally intelligent, and underlined the importance of educating women.[11] We could see this objective as a mirror of Mary Wollstonecraft’ critique of Jean Jacques Rousseaus Émile ou De l’éducation (1762). Other subjects in El Álbum de la mujer were hygiene and politics. The periodical grew in popularity every year.[12]

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz painted in 1772

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz painted in 1772

Gimeno selected stories about sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the mother of Goethe, Carolina Coronado and other prominent women. Through these stories, she wanted to demonstrate that woman are equally intelligent as men.[13] The figure of sor Juana (1651-1695) in particular is very important in Mexico. She was a seventeenth century poet-nun who became the symbol of the feminist movement in Mexico, because of the fact/myth that Juana did not want to marry and that she chose to live as a nun in order to be able to develop her intellectual capabilities.

After six years in Mexico, the couple moved back to Spain. In 1890 she was invited to give a lecture at the prestigious Ateneo de Madrid. She talked about the culture of Mexico before the Spanish colonization. She gave other lectures on women of the French Revolution (1891), women’s intellectual capacities and need for education (1895) and the Feminist issues (1903).[14] These subjects show us her thoughts on the women’s question. In particular, she fought for a decent education for women and the need and opportunity for them to work and be independent.[15] These ideas are inscribed in a broader theorization at the beginning and middle of the nineteenth century by Harriet Hardy Taylor Mill and her husband John Stuart Mill, who both strived for the right to education and work for women.

El Album Ibero-Americano of the 22nd of May of 1895 with a portrait of sor Juana in honour of the anniversary of her death 200 years ago.

El Album Ibero-Americano of the 22nd of May of 1895 with a portrait of sor Juana in honour of the anniversary of her death 200 years ago.

In the same year of her first lecture at the Ateneo, she decided to start publishing her periodical again, and rebaptized it El Álbum Ibero-Americano. The objectives of this periodical were to bring Spain and Latin America closer together, educate women and show that women are intelligent and are able to work and do the houskeeping at the same time. The following domains were represented in the periodical: “art, science, literature, fashion and society”[16]. It was published weekly from 1890 until 1910. In this periodical there were again male and female contributors, like in the Álbum de la mujer. [17]

Male contributors mostly wrote very manly and machista articles. They shared their ideologies and opinions which were most of the time opposed to those of Gimeno herself. One reason for these conflicting voices could be that Gimeno wanted to avoid censure. Or perhaps she wanted to offer her readers as much information as possible, so that they could form their own opinions on the subject. The many female contributors, on the other hand, were more likely to write poems for the periodical. Occasionally prose, a novel or rarely an erudite article are to be found as well.[18]

The editor herself, Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer, had a weekly column at the beginning of El Álbum which was usually called “Crónica policroma” (Polychromatic column) during the first year of its publication.[19] The title fluctuated during the other years between “Crónica general” (General column), “Crónica semanal” (Weekly column), “Crónica española y americana” (Spanish and American column), etcetera.[20] This column was dedicated to short stories and faits-divers about various themes, but mostly societal and cultural ones. They could also contain information about literature and plays in Madrid. Ocassionally she wrote about scientific findings or topics which can be inscribed in her philosophy to educate women.[21]

The 30th of August of 1891 she published “¡Plaza a la mujer!” (Make room for women!)[22] in stead of the normal “Crónica”. This article is a summary of her thoughts on matrimony and education. According to her, women should work to be independent and not to sink into the boredom of marriage. She was against the idea that the only career a woman should have is marriage. She argued that jobs like hairdresser, seamstress or clothing assistant were jobs that women could perform really well. Men should drop out of those professions to make room for women. Her last argument shows, once again, her point of view on the intelligence of women. She demands legislators and governors to make space for women in the workforce, but also in academia so that women can be educated. These topics are recurrent in her “Crónicas”. She defends her point of view about the intelligence of women by giving examples of well-known women, like Juana Inés, who fought for her right to educate herself and to write scientific treaties as well as poems, theatre plays,… She even wanted to dress herself as a man in order to be able to attend university, which her mother did not allow.[23]

Besides her periodical work, Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer published novels and essays about the position of the Spanish woman in the nineteenth century. In 1906, she became the president of the women’s section of the Unión Ibero-Americana. A year later she was named by senator Emilio Alcalá Galiano as one of the most prominent Spanish women from Queen Isabel I to their time. This senator was in favour of equal franchise for men and women, an idea to which Gimeno first opposed but later became in favour of.[24]

In 1912-1917, she went on a five-year trip to Latin America, where she was very respected and became a role model for modern women. In Spain, however, her ideas grew out of fashion and she was considered as a conservative woman. The new female writers did not want to follow the fictional paradigms of Gimeno’s generation. Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer died in 1919 in Argentina.[25]

In conclusion, we can consider her ideas as typical for first-wave feminism. Feminists of the first wave also pleaded for education and jobs for women as well as the lowering of the marital power of the man. A point of difference is the fact that Gimeno de Flaquer started fighting for the right to vote only at the end of her life. Feminists already started earlier to fight for this right. She wrote about the suffragette movement and was against its radicalism, and pleaded for more sophisticated ways of activism. She made a distinction between Anglo-American activism and the more “Latin” version of it. [26] We can deduce from what is mentioned above that she was a very influential woman at her time; being invited to speak at the Ateneo, and writing about her ideas in her very popular periodicals. Scholars, such as Carmen Servén Díez, agree that her ideology is very complex and sometimes conflicting which shows the complexity of the human mind. She was a woman who wanted to shape the visions of her time by using and examining the past and learning from it.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the WeChangEd team for the amazing and interesting time I had during my internship at their project! Many thanks to all of you!

Guillaume Vanhulle

(03/05/2016)

[1] Maryellen Bieder has translated the title as: “The Detractors of the Fair Sex”

[2] Bieder, Maryellen. 1993. “Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer” in Gould Levine, Linda, Ellen Engelson Marson and Gloria Feiman (Eds.) Spanish Women Writers: a Bio-Bibliographical Source Book. Westport: Greenwood Press. P. 219.

[3] Ibid., p. 220.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] There was also another feminist periodical: Las violetas del Anáhuac edited by Laureana Wright de Kleinhans and published around the same time as El Álbum. Both periodicals are considered as the first feminist periodicals edited by only women in Mexico. (Cano, Gabriela. 1996. “Más de un siglo de feminismo en México” en Debate Feminista. 7 (14). México. Pp. 345-360.)

[8] Díaz, Anna Ivonne. 2000. “El Álbum de la mujer. Periodismo femenino el primer paso hacia la modernidad y la ciudadanía” in Desacatos. N°. 3. México. S.n.

[9] Where the Spanish women lives fighting against the terrible fanaticism [of the catholic men], the Mexican women have only just begun the long road of fighting for their rights.

[10] Translation offered by Maryellen Bieder.

[11] Ibid and Bieder, Maryellen. 1993. “Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer” in Gould Levine, Linda, Ellen Engelson Marson and Gloria Feiman (Eds.) Spanish Women Writers: a Bio-Bibliographical Source Book. Westport: Greenwood Press. P. 220.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Díaz, Anna Ivonne. 2000. “El Álbum de la mujer. Periodismo femenino el primer paso hacia la modernidad y la ciudadanía” in Desacatos. N°. 3. México. S.n.

[14] Bieder, Maryellen. 1993. “Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer” in Gould Levine, Linda, Ellen Engelson Marson and Gloria Feiman (Eds.) Spanish Women Writers: a Bio-Bibliographical Source Books. Westport: Greenwood Press. P. 221-222.

[15] Ibid. and Servén Díez, Carmen. October 2013. “El “feminismo moderado” de Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer en su contexto histórico” in Revista de Estudios Hispánicos. N° 3. St Louis: Washington Univeristy pp. 397-415.

[16] Bieder, Maryellen. 1993. “Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer” in Gould Levine, Linda, Ellen Engelson Marson and Gloria Feiman (Eds.) Spanish Women Writers: a Bio-Bibliographical Source Book. Westport: Greenwood Press. P. 221-222. And Chozas Ruiz-Belloso, Diego. 2005. «La mujer según el Álbum Ibero-Americano (1890 -1891) de Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer». Espéculo: Revista de Estudios Literarios. s.n.

[17] Chozas Ruiz-Belloso, Diego. 2005. «La mujer según el Álbum Ibero-Americano (1890 -1891) de Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer». Espéculo: Revista de Estudios Literarios. s.n.

[18] Ibid.; Note: this information is based on the findings of Diego Chozas Ruiz-Belloso who only studied the first year of publication of El Álbum Ibero-Americano. He also states that these conclusions are most probably valid for the other years.

[19] Ibid. (translation is mine).

[20] Gimeno de Flaquer, Concepción. 1895. “Crónica general” in El Álbum Ibero-Americano year 13, n°1. Gimeno de Flaquer, Concepción. 1909. “Crónica semanal” in El Álbum Ibero-Americano. Year 27, n° 48. Gimeno de Flaquer, Concepción. 1895. “Crónica española y americana” in El Álbum Ibero-Americano. Year 13, n°19. (Translations are mine)

[21] Chozas Ruiz-Belloso, Diego. 2005. «La mujer según el Álbum Ibero-Americano (1890 -1891) de Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer». Espéculo: Revista de Estudios Literarios. s.n.

[22] (Translation is mine.)

[23] Ibid.

[24] Bieder, Maryellen. 1993. “Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer” in Gould Levine, Linda, Ellen Engelson Marson and Gloria Feiman (Eds.) Spanish Women Writers: a Bio-Bibliographical Source Book.  Westport: Greenwood Press. P. 222.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Servén Díez, Carmen. October 2013. “El “feminismo moderado” de Concepción Gimeno de Flaquer en su contexto histórico” in Revista de Estudios Hispánicos. N° 3. St Louis: Washington Univeristy pp. 397-415.