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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Federica Montseny

b. 1905, Madrid; d. 1994, Toulouse, France

Federica Montseny, anarchist, writer, and the first Spanish woman to hold a cabinet post, was introduced to radical political ideas at an early age. Her parents edited the anarchist journal La Revista Blanca and later ran their own publishing company. When Montseny began contributing articles to other anarchist journals, she called for the emancipation of women, a cause she worked toward as minister of health in the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War. She succeeded in legalizing abortion and implementing family planning as well as sex education. At the end of the war, with the defeat of the Republican troops, Montseny fled to France. She was imprisoned in 1942 and released upon the liberation of France in 1944. Settling in Toulouse, she resumed her work with the National Confederation of Workers (CNT), which she had joined at the age of seventeen, and published an anarchist newspaper, L’Espoir. She supported the Spanish anarchist cause until her death, but never returned to Spain. Montseny wrote numerous articles and novels over the course of her life; in 1987, she published her autobiography, Mis primeros cuarenta años (My First Forty Years).