A short biography of Concha Liaño, one of the founders of the Spanish anarchist women's movement Mujeres Libres
“It is very painful to recognise it and to say it, but our “liberated” anarchist comrades who struggled for the emancipation of the proletariat, forgot in their analyses that Spanish women, as much as women workers, suffered like them and even more under the yoke of capitalism: for the same work, they were paid less….Our comrades did not want to recognise us as the women’s branch of the libertarian movement. This attitude caused us much astonishment and pain. ..All the same it should be recognised that after many demands and several humiliations suffered by Soledad Estorach the comrades helped us a lot financially. No matter that this was with a paternal attitude of someone supporting the caprices of an adolescent girl. At our demand, they gave us buildings where our regional and local committees functioned”. Concha Liaño
Concepcion Gil Liaño, usually known as Concha Liaño, was a Spanish anarchist born in France at Epinay-sur-Seine on November 24th, 1916 into a wealthy family but spent most of her childhood in Barcelona. She joined the Libertarian Youth (JJLL) at the age of fifteen. Her mother beat her to stop her going out in the neighbourhood but during one of these meetings she admitted that she was anarchist. Her father then told her mother to stop the beatings as Concha was “far more intelligent than us”. Four years later in 1935 she was one of the founders of the Agrupación Cultural Femenina (Women’s Cultural Association). She contributed with others, including her friend Soledad Estorach, to the diffusion of the Madrid magazine Mujeres Libres (Free Women) with a similar anarchist and feminist approach. This led on to the merger of the two initiatives in April 1936 and the emergence of the Mujeres Libres movement. There was hostility within both the Libertarian Youth and the CNT to this imitative which positioned itself as the women’s organisation of the CNT and the broader libertarian movement. As Concha noted later “Now many years later we are accepted. Machismo, then as now, was as if genetic. That was the mentality then. "
After the outbreak of the Spanish revolution and Civil war, Concha served on the Revolutionary Committee of the Sant Marti quarter of Barcelona, and in the Libertarian Youth of the Hospital of San Pedro. In 1937 she became an editor of the Mujeres Libres newspaper.
With the defeat of the Republic in 1939 she fled to France. She managed to escape from one of the concentration camps set up for Spanish refugees and moved first to Paris and then to Bordeaux. She supported the resistance. However the defeat of the revolution in Spain and the permanence of the Franco regime at the end of World War Two deeply depressed her and she attempted suicide. On the advice of friends she emigrated with her five year old daughter to Venezuela. She worked as an employee of an airline in Maracaibo and later moved to Caracas where she lived in a small flat. In 1996 she featured in a documentary about the Spanish Revolution. The filmmaker Vicente Aranda was inspired by the activities of Concha and her comrades of Mujeres Libres to make the film Libertarias. In fact one of the main characters is called Concha Liaño, though Concha herself was highly critical of the film.
She died in Caracas on April 19th, 2014. She was one of the last, if not the last, of the militants of Mujeres Libres.
Interviews with Concha: