Clara Campoamor should be much more famous than she is. She was the person who fought for, and won, the vote for women in Spain almost single-handedly. However, only in recent years has her importance been more clearly recognized.
Clara Campoamor was born into a working family in Madrid in 1888. She started her working life with only basic education, first in a telephone exchange, then for the Post Office before becoming a secretary to a politician. At the age of 32 she took the unusual step of returning to school to complete her secondary education and then went on to study law at university. She graduated in just two years and at the age of 36 she became one of the very few female lawyers in Spain
She had very strong ideas about sexual equality co-writing a book on the subject during the chauvinistic dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera. She became a member of parliament in the second republic in 1931 and worked tirelessly for the rights of women to equality before the law, bringing the subject of women’s suffrage to parliamentary debate. Most members of parliament were against her proposal, including a substantial number of left-wing politicians who believed that women, who tended to be more strongly influenced by the church than men, would predominantly vote for a right wing government. Ironically, her strongest opponent in the debate was another female member of parliament, Victoria Kent. However, Clara won this historic debate with a very small majority, opening the way to the first female vote in 1933.
Clara had many difficulties remaining in politics and finally left in 1934. She went into exile during the civil war and lived in Argentina for 10 years working as a writer, speaker and translator. She tried to return to Spain in the late 40s only to find that there was a court process against her under the Franco regime. Clara never returned to live in Spain and died in Switzerland in 1972.