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Women Political Prisoners after the Spanish Civil War

Narratives of Resistance and Survival

Ruth Fisher was awarded a PhD in Hispanic Studies from University of Sheffield in 2018. Ruth is interested in modern European history and literature, with a particular focus on post-conflict society in 20th century Germany and Spain. She now works in academic publishing.

At the end of the Spanish Civil War the Nationalist government instigated mass repression against anyone suspected of loyalty to the defeated Republican side. Around 200,000 people were imprisoned for political crimes, including thousands of women who were charged with offences ranging from directing the home front to supporting their loved ones engaged in combat. Many women wrote and published texts about their experiences, seeking to make their voices heard and to counteract the dehumanising master narrative of the right-wing victors that had criminalised their existence. The memoirs of Communist women, such as Tomasa Cuevas and Juana Doña, have heavily influenced our understanding of life in prison for women under franquismo, while texts by non-Communist women have largely been ignored.

Narratives of Resistance and Survival offers a comparative study of the life writing of female political prisoners in Spain, focusing on six texts in particular: the two volumes of Cárcel de mujeres by Tomasa Cuevas; Desde la noche y la niebla by Juana Doña; Réquiem por la libertad by Ángeles García Madrid; Abajo las dictaduras by Josefa García Segret; and Aquello sucedió así by Ángeles Malonda. All the texts share common themes, such as the hunger and repression that political prisoners suffered. However, the ideologically-driven narratives of Communist women often foreground representations of resistance at the expense of exploring the emotional and intellectual struggle for survival that many women political prisoners faced in the aftermath of the war. This study nuances our understanding of imprisoned women as individuals and as a collective, analysing how they sought recognition and justice in the face of a vindictive dictatorship. It also explores their response to the spirit of convivencia during the transition to democracy, which once again threatened to silence them.

Published in association with the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-78976-055-2
Hardback Price: £75.00 / $89.95
Release Date: January 2021 
Page Extent / Format: 280 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



Chapter One: Mass Imprisonment and its Legacy during the Transition 

The pacto de olvido and its origins        

Creating the Transition

The Transition in the writing of political prisoners          

Mass imprisonment in the immediate post-war period  

Studying Spanish women political prisoners and their life writing

Chapter Two: The Resistance Narrative: The Communist Construction of Prison in the Life Writing of Tomasa Cuevas and Juana Doña

Communist life writing

Tomasa Cuevas' Cárcel de mujeres (1985)

A case study of Soviet-model Communist autobiography

Juana Doña's Desde la noche y la niebla: Mujeres en las cárceles franquistas (1978)

Political life in prison

Educational programmes

Hunger strikes and protests

A network of resistance across Spain

Constructing community

Political women

Prostitutes and chivatas

Bearing witness

Heroic death

The heroic death of the Trece Rosas

Emotional bonds between Communist women


Chapter Three: Exploring the Individual and the Feminist in Communist Writing: Juana Doña's Ideological Development

Breaking with the PCE, feminism, and the Transition

La mujer (1977) and its relationship with Desde la noche y la niebla

Framing Desde la noche y la niebla as a feminist text

Domestic violence and rape


Doña and Mesón's revolutionary love


The isolation of imprisonment

Questioning dogmatism


Chapter Four: Surviving Francoist Repression: The Prison Memoirs of Ángeles García Madrid, Josefa García Segret, and Ángeles Malonda

Réquiem por la libertad by Ángeles García Madrid

Abajo las dictaduras by Josefa García Segret

Aquello sucedió así by Ángeles Malonda

The spectacle of justice



Challenging the legal system

Cohabitation and survival in prison

Food politics    

Negotiating relationships

Persecution, harassment, and exploitation: the vulnerability of non-Communists and their families

Coping strategies

Chapter Five: Influencing the Narrative during the Transition and Beyond

Appendix A – Editions of Primary Texts

Review Quotes to Follow

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