Today, we dedicate our blog to Concepción Arenal. A woman who played a key role in the emancipation of women in Spain. Our Spanish school, El Rincón del Tándem, will tell you shortly about her story and achievements. Enjoy the reading!

According to the philosophy our Spanish school, learning Spanish implies learning about the history and the culture of Spanish speaking-countries. Therefore, getting to know about people who stood out for their achievements is also necessary and important for our students.

In addition, our school wanted to pay tribute to some outstanding women from Spain and Latin America by dedicating the name of our classrooms to them.

In this way, we aim to transform the simple act of entering class into an opportunity for our students to become familiar with women who made positive changes in our societies.

One of them is Concepción Arenal. Let’s discover together who she was …

Concepción Arenal is considered a pioneer of the feminist struggle for gender equality in the 19th century.

All her life she was an example of the struggle for women’s rights; especially for the right to education.
At that time, access to higher education was forbidden for women. That was why, determined to further her studies, the young Concepción Arenal disguised herself as a man in order to access the University.

In fact, in 1841 she entered the Criminal and Legal Law degree at the Faculty of Law of the University of Madrid. After being discovered, she had to take an exam to show that she had enough knowledge to be at the University, but even so, she was only given the possibility to continue attending the classes as an auditor.

She was not allowed to take exams or obtain an official degree.

In those years she met Fernando García Carrasco that she married and with whom she maintained an equal marriage and a deep intellectual affinity.

Concepción Arenal was a literary writer, journalist and even held administrative positions exclusively reserved for men.

Even so, her entire life and her professional activity was full of obstacles that helped her increase her awareness about the subordination of women in Spain.

In fact, in 1860 her essay La beneficencia, la filantropía y la caridad, received the award from the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences. Arenal published the essay under the name of her son and it was thus that, upon discovering it, the Academy suspended the award.
Nevertheless, thanks the undeniable value of this writing, the award was finally granted to her.

This episode set a precedent, since she the first woman to receive the award.

Likewise, three years later, Queen Elizabeth II and the Minister of the Interior appointed her Visitor of Women’s Prisons. Also, in this case, it was the first time that a woman held a position that normally was reserved for men.

In the wake of the ’68 Revolution and the progressive wave, she was appointed Inspector of Houses of Correction for Women.

Concepción Arenal dedicated several of her works to the question of equal rights between men and women. Her ideas also reflect her interest in Krausism, which led her to become friends with some of the greatest Spanish exponents such as Fernando de Castro and Francisco Giner de los Ríos.

Her thoughts on gender equality are presented in essays and works such as La mujer del Porvenir where she claims the right to education for women, El estado actual de la mujer en España or La Mujer trabajadora that deal with the wage gap between women and men is in factories.

In addition, Concepción Arenal, as an expert in criminal law, dedicate herself to promote changes of the penal system, inspired to the principles of Krausism.

We find her reflections on the Spanish prison system and the need for penal reforms in writings such as Cartas a los delincuentes, El reo, el pueblo y el verdugo and Oda a la esclavitud. This last work received an award from the Madrid Abolitionist Association.

Undoubtedly, her entire personal and professional life marked the way for future changes, opened new debates on social reforms and left an important legacy to future feminist women.

We hope that this fundamental figure in the history of women emancipation in Spain will encourage you to learn more about it.

As usual our Spanish school, El Rincón del Tándem in Valencia, invites you to keep improving your Spanish and to develop your curiosity about Spanish and local history and culture.

¡Hasta pronto!