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Constancia de la Mora in War and Exile

International Voice for the Spanish Republic

Soledad Fox is professor of Spanish and comparative literature at Williams College. She has published articles and lectured on Spanish and French literature, and on exile and autobiographical writing. She spent 2004 as a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar researching the life of Constancia de la Mora. This study combines personal documents (unpublished letters, memoirs, and photos) and official government files (from the FBI and the Comintern), and brings together previously unavailable archival materials.

Her fame seemed guaranteed by the compelling story of her life. She had been an aristocrat turned Communist, a celebrated author, and an international political figure whose acquaintances and collaborators included Stalin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, Tina Modotti, Vittorio Vidali, and Anna Seghers among many others. Yet, surprisingly, instead of remaining a heroine of the Republic, Constancia de la Mora’s memory somehow faded from Republican history. This books sets out to explore the life of this privileged woman who unexpectedly cast in her lot with that of the Spanish people.

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

Also published in paperback as A Spanish Woman in Love and War

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-166-5
Hardback Price: £35.00 / $55.00
Release Date: November 2006
Page Extent / Format: 272 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes


List of Illustrations
Series Editor’s Preface
List of Abbreviations


I Old Spain: Portrait of a Family

II The War, 1936–1939: Fighting Fascism from the Press Office

III Mission to New York: Propaganda and Diplomacy

IV Refugee Crisis: From the White House to the Blacklist

V Mexico, 1940–1950: Exile



Throughout her book, Fox carefully corrects or complements De la Mora’s own account of her life, and gracefully withholds moral judgment, painting a balanced picture of virtues and faults. She is not out, she writes, to ‘discredit Constancia’, who remains for her ‘an exceptional defender of the Republic’. Still, she argues, De la Mora’s role needs to be reconsidered in light of the new evidence. Fox also makes clear that much about De la Mora is still unknown. One of the charming aspects of this biography is that, for all its astonishing revelations, it does not attempt to answer every single question, leaving the reader with some tantalizing enigmas. In this way, too, Fox’s book can be seen as a critical, yet respectfully measured homage to its subject.
Bulletin of Spanish Studies

Until now, nobody had taken on the double task of providing a critical analysis of Constancia de la Mora’s life and the context in which her one great work was created. This is the task that Soledad Fox has undertaken brilliantly… She takes on two roles: biographer and literary scholar… Fox offers us a heartfelt tribute to an exceptional woman, as well as a portrait of the anticommunist fever in the United States between the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The figure of Constancia had faded from history. Soledad Fox’s book recovers it with great empathy.
Revista de Libros

Through her groundbreaking research, Soledad Fox reveals many previously unknown facts and contradictions about de la Mora’s life in New York and later in Mexico, most importantly, that she did not actually write In Place of Splendor… De la Mora was well connected with wealthy and powerful sympathizers in New York. However, Fox describes her fall from grace in the United States when, after the signing of the Hitler–Stalin Pact in August 1939 and in the midst of the anti-Soviet sentiment that followed, her key supporter, Eleanor Roosevelt, apparently began to suspect her Communist ties…
... This is a highly provocative book. Just as it brings to light myriad mysteries surrounding de la Mora’s peripatetic life, it raised many other intriguing questions. For instance, why did de la Mora avoid giving credit to her ghostwriter, and why didn’t McKenney insist that she reveal the truth about authorship of In Place of Splendor? What motivated de la Mora to go on a trip with a conservative American woman whom, from Fox’s descriptions, de la Mora appears to have loathed?… Fox suggests that de la Mora became intransigent and capricious in her last years. No doubt, like many of her fellow exiles, she suffered from the psychological trauma that those who had lost their homeland and loved ones experienced, and her anguish was complicated by her feeling of impotence. One can only imagine how deeply confounded and miserable she must have been when she realized that she could not help the Spaniards suffering in Spain and France and when, after World War II, all hope that Franco would be overthrown disappeared.
The Volunteer

By addressing the political and sociological meanings of Constancia de la Mora’s communism, the author opens up further audiences among historians of twentieth-century Spain while her exploration of how, why and with what consequences de la Mora then concealed this allegiance embeds her story in the domestic political history of twentieth-century America with its central mobilising narrative of anticommunism.
Professor Helen Graham, Dept. of History, Royal Holloway, University of London

De la Mora is clearly one of the most exciting female figures from the Spanish Civil War. Many issues about De la Mora's life and work have remained a mystery. Dr Fox sets out to unravel those mysteries and to elucidate, through her meticulous and brilliant research, the intricate political intrigues that affected De la Mora’s life. Of special interest is the provenance of her excellent autobiography on the war, In Place of Splendor, one of the most compelling memory texts about the war. Fox’s surprising findings about the authorship of the book and other mysteries about De la Mora’s political activities should provoke much discussion.
Shirley Mangini, Professor Emeritus, California State University

This book tells the story of Constancia de la Mora, who is most well known as the author of the book In Place of Splendor, published under her name in 1939. De la Mora was born into wealth and privilege as the granddaughter of one of twentieth-century Spain’s most famous and powerful conservative politicians, Antonio Maura. Eventually, she distanced herself from this upbringing by first divorcing her husband, and then marrying Ignacio Hidalgo de Cisneros, a dashing aviator who later was head of the Republican Air Force. The couple became increasingly politically active, first through their passionate support for the newly established Republic (1931), and later by joining the Communist Party. During the Spanish Civil War, De la Mora served in a variety of capacities before eventually becoming the head of the Republic’s foreign press bureau. Her role was to facilitate reporting on the war and also to censor reports filed by foreign journalists. Near the end of the conflict, Prime Minister Juan Negrín sent De la Mora to the United States in an effort to reverse the policy of Non-Intervention and to solicit aid on behalf of the increasingly desperate Republic. While there, she collaborated in the writing of In Place of Splendor and, following the conclusion of the war, shifted her lobbying efforts to the needs of Spanish exiles. Eventually, she relocated to Mexico where she continued to labour on behalf of the exiles and also worked briefly in the Soviet embassy. In 1950, while travelling in Guatemala, De la Mora was killed in an automobile accident.
... With the publication of this book, Fox hopes to revive the memory of a once famous woman and she certainly succeeds in providing a richer and more developed portrait of De la Mora than was previously available. … The strongest aspect of this work is the original research Fox has done surrounding the true authorship of In Place of Splendor. She convincingly argues that De la Mora, a British-educated, non-native speaker of English, could not have penned such a dramatic text, especially one containing American-style colloquialisms. Instead, it seems that the true author of the book was an American writer named Ruth McKenney, a well known, left-leaning writer whose background as a journalist allowed her to quickly and effectively transform De la Mora’s life story into a compelling piece of pro-Republican propaganda.
European History Quarterly

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