The duties of a married woman in Franco’s Spain

Just now and then in the course of my research, I come across something I can’t resist sharing. The following is a translation of the advice given to married women under Franco’s dictatorship. It was drawn up by the Sección Feminina of the Spanish Falange in 1958.

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When your husband returns from work, have a delicious meal ready, in particular, his favourite dish. Offer to take off his shoes. Speak softly in a relaxed, pleasant tone.

Prepare yourself: retouch your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair, make yourself a bit more interesting for him. His hard working day means his spirits might need a bit of a lift and one of your duties is to provide this.

During the coldest days you should set a fire in the fireplace and light it so that he can relax in front of it. After all, devoting yourself to his comfort will give you an immense sense of personal satisfaction.

Minimise any noise. At the time of his arrival, stop the rumble of the washing machine or the vacuum cleaner. Greet him with a warm smile and show your desire to please him. Listen to him, let him talk first. Remember that his conversational topics are more important than yours. Never complain if he arrives late or goes out to dine or to visit other places of entertainment without you. On the contrary, try to understand his world of tension and stress, his real needs.

Make him feel at ease, reclining in a comfortable armchair or lying down in the bedroom. Have a cold or hot drink ready for him. Don’t demand explanations of his actions, his judgments or his integrity. Remember always that he is the master of the house.

Encourage your husband to put his hobbies and interests into practice and support him without being excessively insistent. If you have some hobby, try not to bore him by talking about it, since women’s interests are trivial compared to those of men. At the end of the evening, clean the house again so that it’s clean in the morning. Anticipate his breakfast time needs. Breakfast is vital for your husband if he is to face the world in a positive mood.

Once you have both retired to the bedroom, prepare yourself for bed as quickly as possible, bearing in mind that although feminine hygiene is of the utmost importance, your husband doesn’t like waiting to go to the bathroom. Remember that you must look immaculate at bedtime… if you have to apply face-cream or put rollers in your hair, wait till he is asleep as this could come as a shock to a man last thing at night.

With regard to the possibility of intimate relations with your husband, it is important to remember your marital obligations: if he feels the need to sleep, let him and don’t pressure him or stimulate intimacy. If your husband suggests intercourse, agree humbly, always taking into account that his satisfaction is more important than that of a woman.

When the moment of climax is reached, a small moan on your part is sufficient to indicate whatever enjoyment you may have experienced. If your husband demands of you unusual sexual practices, be obedient and don’t complain. Afterwards your husband will probably fall into a deep sleep, so adjust your clothing, refresh yourself, apply your facial cream for the night and the products for your hair. You can then set the alarm clock in order to rise a little before him in the morning. This will allow you to have a cup of coffee ready when he wakes up.

It reads like a spoof but I don’t think it is. The Catholic Church had a massively powerful influence in Franco’s Spain. Women’s sole function was to bear and raise children. Divorce, contraception and abortion were forbidden and women were not allowed to travel, apply for a passport, open a bank account or sign a contract without the permission of their husbands. The Falange’s advice sounds laughable (as well as shocking) to us now but I suspect that American wives of the 1950s would not have found it so alien. Even in Britain in the 50s and 60s, women were still solemnly vowing to obey their husbands in the C of E marriage service. In a culture where religion is strong (and controlled by men), women beware!

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