Badass Women: Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda

   Recently I have started listening to a podcast called The History Chicks (which I strongly recommend–each episode features a different historical  woman) and one of the hosts loves the Gilded Age, and thus the first season of their show was dedicated to women from this time period. So I have decided instead of apologizing for my addiction to Hispanic women, especially authors, I will embrace it and promise to widen my range of women in the future.

   Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda was born in Cuba in 1814 to Spanish parents, and lived the first 22 years of her life in Cuba, until her stepfather moved her mother and the rest of the family back to Spain.

   Gertrudis, although known as being a spoiled child, was a voracious reader and an independent person from an early age. Her grandfather arranged a marriage for her at the age of 13 and even promised her part of his estate if she went through with it, but at the age of 15 she decided to break off the engagement.  As a result, she was left out of her grandfather’s will, but in turn was given a renewed sense of independence, which also included a hatred for the establishment of arranged marriage as well as for the institution of patriarchy as a whole.

   Gertrudis would have many lovers throughout her life, and even a child out of wedlock, which for her time period, was a huge taboo. She was a prolific and sometimes controversial writer, popular in the 1840s and 1850s, along with Carolina Coronado and Rosalia de Castro (they are the works for this series!). Of the three, she received the most praise and was the author of novels, autobiographies, poetry and love letters.

   Arguably her most famous work is the romantic novel Sab, which can be compared to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and tells the story of Sab, a slave who falls in love with his owner’s daughter. I wrote about this novel in a previous blog post. The novel itself was banned in Cuba not only for its antislavery themes, but also for the portrayal of interracial love and societal divisions, unpopular in this time period.

   After being highly acclaimed for many of her works, Gertrudis applied for an empty seat at the Royal Academy in Spain, but because she was a woman, was denied the post. She remained a supporter of women’s rights until her death in Madrid at just 59 years old. Gertrudis is just one example of the many women who accomplished great things even though the system of patriarchy was against them in a big way, and she will be forever remembered for it.

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