Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

'These Ladies Out-Radical the Radicals': María De Maeztu, Victoria Kent and Victoria Ocampo

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

'These Ladies Out-Radical the Radicals': María De Maeztu, Victoria Kent and Victoria Ocampo

Article excerpt


The article begins by analysing an excerpt from a letter, dated Madrid, 20 October 1921, from North American Hispanist Caroline Bourland to the President of Smith College, Massachusetts. The paragraph in question describes a private dinner at the Residencia de Señoritas, to which Bourland had been invited by María de Maeztu along with Spanish politician Victoria Kent and Argentine intellectual Victoria Ocampo. The purpose of this article is to consider exactly what Bourland meant when she claimed that those three women appeared to 'out-radical the radicals'. Included in the study is the intriguing tale of the passion felt by María de Maeztu for Victoria Ocampo and her jealousy of Victoria Kent. The article thus demonstrates the need to investigate female homoeroticism within the milieu of the Residencia de Señoritas.


Este artículo empieza analizando un pasaje de una carta-datada en Madrid el 20 de octubre de 1931-de la hispanista norteamericana Caroline Bourland al presidente de Smith College, Massachusetts. Dicho párrafo describe una cena privada en la Residencia de Señoritas a la que María de Maeztu había invitado a Bourland, junto con la política española Victoria Kent y la intelectual argentina Victoria Ocampo. El objetivo del artículo consiste en determinar a qué se refiere Bourland exactamente al asegurar que las tres mujeres parecían 'más radicales que los radicales'. Este estudio, que incluye la reconstrucción de una fascinante historia de pasión de María de Maeztu hacia Victoria Ocampo (y los celos de la primera hacia Victoria Kent), reivindica la necesidad de investigar el homoerotismo femenino en el entorno de la Residencia de Señoritas.

for Bobby

Autumn 1931 was an exciting time to be in Spain. The Second Republic had been declared in April and dramatic changes were taking place in politics and society. Professor Caroline B. Bourland, chair of the Department of Spanish at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, found herself in Madrid. Bourland was in charge of the Junior Year Abroad programme for her elite women's college for that academic year (Piñón Varela 2008: 522). A passionate Hispanist, she observed the new era with great interest, even attending the parliamentary session at which the possibility of divorce being permitted under the new Constitution was approved (15 October 1931). It was a decision described as 'the result of a general climate of agitation in favor of sexual reform during the 1920s' (Glick 2003: 92). 'Quite a jump for this Catholic country, isn't it?' Bourland wrote to William Neilson, President of Smith College, in a letter dated 20 October 1931.

That same letter also refers to a private dinner at the Residencia de Señoritas to which Caroline Bourland had been invited by the Directora, María de Maeztu. Spanish lawyer and politician Victoria Kent and Argentine writer Victoria Ocampo were also present. In a paragraph describing that memorable evening, the American professor could not conceal her delight at the progressive politics and liberal views about love expressed by these three intellectuals:

Sunday night I had supper with María in her private dining room in company with Victoria Kent and Victoria Ocampo, an Argentine who edits a review. All of these ladies (even María) out-radical the radicals, their conversation was highly entertaining and made me feel as if free love and a completely communistic state were right around the corner. Victoria Kent's ideas on ways and means for keeping prisoners happy during their incarceration have already shocked all feminine Spain. You remember that she is Chairman of the Commission for Prison Reform. (Letter from Caroline Bourland to William Neilson. Madrid, 20 October 1931)

The purpose of this article is to interpret the meaning of the American scholar's statement that María de Maeztu, Victoria Kent and Victoria Ocampo 'out-radical the radicals', analysing this passage of her letter and comparing other documentary sources. …

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