Federica Montseny Mañé
|Minister of Health and Social Policy|
4 November 1936 – 17 May 1937
|Preceded by||José Tomás y Piera|
|Succeeded by||Jesús Hernández Tomás (Health) y Jaime Aiguadé y Miró (Social Policy)|
|Born||12 February 1905|
|Died||14 January 1994 (aged 88)|
|Spouse(s)||Josep Esgleas Jaume|
|Children||Vida Esgleas Montseny|
Germinal Esgleas Montseny
Blanca Esgleas Montseny
Federica Montseny Mañé (Catalan: [munˈsɛɲ]; 12 February 1905 – 14 January 1994) was a Spanish anarchist, intellectual and Minister of Health during the Spanish Revolution of 1936, a social revolution that occurred in Spain in parallel to the Spanish Civil War.
She is known as a novelist and essayist and for being one of the first female ministers in Western Europe.
She was born on 12 February 1905 in Madrid, Spain. Montseny was, in her own words, the "daughter of a family of old anarchists". Her father was the anti-authoritarian writer and propagandist Juan Montseny Carret (alias Federico Urales), and her mother, Teresa Mañé Miravet (alias Soledad Gustavo), was also an anarchist activist. Her parents were the co-editors of the anarchists journal, La Revista Blanca (1898–1905). In 1912, her parents returned to their native Catalonia and later established a publishing company that specialized in libertarian literature.
Montseny joined the anarchist trade union CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) and wrote for anarchist journals such as Solidaridad Obrera, Tierra y Libertad and Nueva Senda. In 1927, she joined the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI).
With Josep Esgleas Jaume (alias Germinal Esgleas), she had three children: Vida (1933), Germinal (1938) and Blanca (1942).
During the Spanish Civil War, Montseny supported the republican government. She rejected the violence in the republican-held territory: "a lust for blood inconceivable in honest man before". In November 1936, Francisco Largo Caballero appointed Montseny as Minister of Health. In doing so, she became the first woman in Spanish history to be a cabinet minister. She was one of the first female ministers in Western Europe (but preceded by Danish Minister of Education, Nina Bang and Miina Sillanpää of Finland). She aimed to transform public health to meet the needs of the poor and the working class. To that end, she supported decentralized, locally l-responsive and preventative health care programs that mobilized the entire working class for the war effort. She was influenced by the anarchist sex reform movement, which since the 1920s had focused on reproductive rights and was minister in 1936 when Dr. Félix Martí Ibáñez, the anarchist director general of Health and Social Assistance of the Generalitat de Catalunya, issued the Eugenic Reform of Abortion, a decree that effectively made abortion on demand legal in Catalonia.
Given her family's libertarian tradition, her decision to enter the Popular Front government was especially difficult. Although joining the government was a move encouraged by the anarcho-syndicalist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), the collaboration with the government to present a united front to the threat posed by Francisco Franco's rebel armies, was widely questioned during and for long after the war was over. Notably, she was involved in polemics with Emma Goldman and she was the recipient of harsh criticism in Camillo Berneri's open letter of 1937. For many anarchists, the topic of collaboration with both Marxists and governments is still contentious.
She moved to France in 1939 where she wrote many books, only a fraction of which were political. Although she returned to Spain in 1977, she died on 14 January 1994 in Toulouse, at 88.