MARÍA DE MAEZTU
María de Maeztu Whitney, a pedagogue and a humanist born in Vitoria in 1881 and who died in Mar del Plata (Argentina) in 1948, is one of the most important Spanish educational figures of the past century.
In her family, very well known in the fields of engineering, politics and education, her brothers Ramiro and Gustavo are also to be mentioned. She graduated in Education and when her father died prematurely, her mother and her five children moved to Bilbao where María helped her mother in the Anglo-French Academy for Girls. She would also teach in Santander, Bilbao and Madrid.
Thanks to a scholarship for her language skills, María could attend college and graduate in Philosophy, as well. She began to give lectures and to get involved in pedagogy projects. She travelled to other countries to complete her training and in Madrid she was related to the philosophical circle of José Ortega y Gasset.
From there, she developed her career as the director and manager of the so-called International Residence for Women, the project of her life. In both this institution and in the female Lyceum Club, De Maeztu supported the fostering of freedom of thought, opinion and the education of women, through concerts, conferences, courses, literary, scientific, musical or fine arts exhibitions, which were taught by intellectuals and personalities.
She also participated in the education section of the National Assembly during the Primo de Rivera dictatorship and other cultural institutions. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War forced her into exile in Argentina, where she was Professor of History of Education.
A great translator, she was named Doctor Honoris Causa by several universities worldwide, and left a large written corpus about pedagogy and women matters. Samples of her thought are:
I am a feminist; I would be ashamed not to, because I believe that every woman who thinks must feel the desire to work as a person in the whole work of human culture. And this is what that means to me, first of all, feminism: it is, firstly, the right that women have to demand for cultural work and, secondly, the duty of society to guarantee it. It is fair enough to proclaim what has already been said, that the most relevant enemies of feminism are not men but women: some because of fear, others for selfishness. The first, on hearing about emancipation, economic independence, can only see behind these suggestive topics the sad prospect of earning a living by working for wages in industries, being the miserable victims of exploitation. This independence is for them then, the worst kind of slavery. If asked to choose between submission to the employer or to a husband, all women prefer the latter. Against what Stuart Mill claimed, the submission of women to men through marriage is, in those circumstances, the only possible release. The second group does not want to hear about economic emancipation, because all they want is to find a husband on favorable terms, which becomes more difficult if women claim a place in the social economy. For them both feminism is not a liberating idea, but a promise of slavery. Therefore, the first task is to prepare our women, and of course I trust for that, as the sole and exclusive means, in education, in saving the ideal substances in itself, ignored by these women, will give them strength to discover new worlds, unsuspected until now.
It is true that knowledge needs effort but it should not be the child’s but the teacher’s.
We have not devoted a lesson for the dogmatic teaching of morality in the timetable because we believe that in these early years of school the teacher should take every opportunity presented in class for children to go forming rules of behaviour to guide them in life. We are sincerely concerned to form the religious sentiment of children as an essential part of our educational work.
I wish you all a very inspirational week,
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