Introduction

Visual Index (Entire Poster Collection)

Catalogue

Chronology of the War

Acknowledgements

Lists of References

Afterword: Herbert R. Southworth Collection


 

¡Acusamos de asesinos a los facciosos! Niños y mujeres caen inocentes. Hombres libres, repudiad a todos los que apoyen en la retaguardia al fascismo. He aquí las víctimas

[We charge the rebels as assassins! Innocent children and women die. Free men, repudiate all those who support Fascism in the rearguard]. . Propaganda editada por la confederación regional de Levante. Ortega, Valencia. Control U.G.T.-C.N.T. Lithograph, 2 colors; 52 x 66 cm.

Despite the somewhat amateurish quality of this image in comparison to many Civil War posters, it is an effective battle cry for action against fascism. As the red and black colors in the lower right-hand corner indicate, this poster was issued by the Anarchists. The frightened woman and child are the victims of the rebels, represented by a Nazi plane that is dropping bombs on Spain's eastern coast. The portrayal of woman as victim seems to have been a powerful way of garnering support in war-time propaganda (also see posters 17, 18, 39). By depicting women as mothers and spouses threatened by war, artists emphasized the menace that the rebels presented to the most basic unit of Spanish society. While this is the only kind of representation of women to be found in the posters of this collection, there are numerous examples of propaganda where women are portrayed in more active wartime roles, as brave militiawomen headed into battle or as workers on the home front, for example. More negatively, posters warned soldiers about female prostitutes who spread venereal disease or about gossipy women who would inevitably reveal important secrets about the war.

As the variety of representations of women in Civil War posters demonstrates, the role of women in the war was not clear. On the one hand, the actions of women in the war era posed a significant challenge to their traditional role as guardians of the home. For example, the very prominent Mujeres Antifascistas, a coalition of women from a variety of leftist political groups, was formed with the mission of removing the Spanish woman from the state of ignorance to which patriarchal society had relegated her. In addition, in the first months of the war, Republican militiawomen were a common sight in Spain. Women like Lina Odena, Aida de la Fuente, and Rosario Sánchez fought valiantly in the war and became part of popular Republican mythology. Women were also essential as industrial and agricultural laborers, replacing men who had gone to fight in the war.

On the other hand, the access to new roles did not necessarily mean fundamental changes in perceptions about women. Even within a radical group like Mujeres Antifascistas, there was a split between those who thought women should be fighting at the front and those who believed they should concentrate their efforts on the home front. In addition, milicianas, whose numbers dropped drastically by early 1937, often found themselves cooking, cleaning and doing laundry rather than fighting in combat. Manuela, a militiawoman who quickly grew tired of her secondary role, wrote to the female commander Mika Etchebéhäre in the hopes of transferring to her command: "I have heard that in your column the milicianas have the same rights as the men, that they do not wash the clothes and the dishes. I have not come to the front in order to die for the revolution with a kitchen cloth in my hand." The triumph of Franco's forces spelled the end of increased liberation and the reconfirmation of women's traditional roles as wife and mother.

 
Copyright UC Regents 1998, All rights reserved