Lucia Sanchez Saornil (Madrid. December 13, 1895 – Valencia. June 2, 1970), was a Spanish poet, militant anarchist and feminist. She is best known as one of the founders of Mujeres Libres and served in the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) and Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista (SIA).
Raised by her impoverished, widowed father, Lucia attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. At a young age she began writing poetry and associated herself with the emerging Ultraist literary movement. By 1919, she had been published in a variety of journals, including Los Quijotes, Tableros, Plural, Manantial and La Gaceta Literaria. Working under a male pen name, she was able to explore lesbian themes at a time when homosexuality was criminalized and subject to censorship and punishment.
In 1931, Lucia Sanchez Saornil, who had been working as a telephone operator since 1916, participated in a strike by the anarcho-syndicalist labor union, Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), against Telefonica. The event was a turning point in her life, serving as an entry into political activism. From this point forward, Lucia dedicated herself to the struggle for anarchist social revolution.
In 1933, Lucia was appointed Writing Secretary for the CNT of Madrid, producing their journal in the run up to the Spanish Civil War. In May 1938, she became the General Secretary of the Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista (SIA), an anarchist aid organization similar to the Red Cross.
Writing in anarchist publications such as Earth and Freedom, the White Magazine and Workers' Solidarity, Lucia outlined her perspective as a feminist. Although quiet on the subject of birth control, she attacked the essentialism of gender roles in Spanish society. In this way, Lucia established herself as one of the most radical of voices among anarchist women, rejecting the ideal of female domesticity which remained largely unquestioned. In a series of articles for Workers' Solidarity, she boldly refuted Gregorio Maranon's identification of motherhood as the nucleus of female identity.
Dissatisfied with the chauvinistic prejudices of fellow republicans, Lucia Sanchez Saornil joined with two companeras, Mercedes Comaposada and Amparo Poch y Gascon, to form Mujeres Libres in 1936. Mujeres Libres was an autonomous anarchist organization for women committed to a "double struggle" of women's liberation and social revolution. Lucia and other "Free Women" rejected the dominant view that gender equality would emerge naturally from a classless society. As the Spanish Civil War exploded, Mujeres Libres quickly grew to 30,000 members, organizing women's social spaces, schools, newspapers and daycare programs.
In 1937, while working in Valencia as the editor of the journal Threshold, Lucia met America Barroso, who would become her lifelong partner.
With the defeat of the Second Republic, Lucia and America were forced to flee to Paris here Lucia continued her involvement in the SIA. With the fall of France to German forces, it was soon necessary for them to move again and they returned to Madrid in 1941 or 1942.
In Madrid, Lucia worked as a photo editor but quickly had to relocated again after being recognized as an anarchist partisan. She and America moved to Valencia where America had family. Due to the rise of fascism and Catholic moralism, their lesbian relationship now put them at significant personal danger and was maintained in secrecy. During this time, America worked in the Argentine consulate while Lucia continued her work as an editor until her death from cancer in 1970. During this time, her poetry demonstrates her mixed outlook, embracing both the pain of defeat and the affirmation of struggle. She left behind no memoir.
Lucia's tombstone epitaph reads, "But is it true that hope has died?" ("¿Pero es verdad que la esperanza ha muerto?").