The Yoke of Isabella : the women's section of the Spanish Falange 1934-1959
The Women's Section (Seccion Femenina) of the Franco regime's bureaucratic framework was founded in 1934 as an offshoot of the small fascist party, the Falange. Its leader, Pilar Primo de Rivera, was the sister of the Falange's founder, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera and remained in post throughout the regime. The present study is of Seccion Femenina (SF) as it developed following the death of Jose Antonio during the Spanish Civil War, becoming part of the regime's bureaucracy while retaining its original ideological base. The thesis examines the emerging role of SF in the Spanish Civil War as a supporter of the Nationalist cause and its mandate in 1939 to train and prepare the women and girls in Spain for life under the new regime. SF's influence on government legislation and its contribution to the nation's economic and social stability up to 1959 are examined in relation to the political events of the period as well as the compromises made as SF faced opposition from other sectors of the regime. The second focus of the thesis is SF's ideological base and inner identity, and particularly the degree to which it exhibited features of fascism. This is examined in relation to its elite members, whose belief system was so enduring that it survived the decline of Falangism in the regime. In the face of political realities, SF always saw its 1939 mandate as its own 'Falangist Revolution' and its elite members as capable of transforming society. The origins of these beliefs, the contribution of foreign influences and the transmission of SF ideology in SF's elite academy are analysed in relation to the work and self-image of the elites. The paradox of SF as a loyal supporter of Francoism while challenging the class and social base of the regime is also examined, and religion is shown as the most significant area where SF differed from mainstream opinion and practice. SF's programmes have been studied via primary sources, journals and archive materials. The major primary source, however, is the set of forty-five interviews, conducted principally in Madrid but also in Salamanca, Santiago de Compostela, Palencia, Medina del Campo, Zaragoza, Toledo, the province of Leon and Britain between 1994 and 1999. Interviewees are mainly former elite members of SF together with unaffiliated women, male Falangists and others with experience of SF's programmes.