|Catalan Scarf Triggers Research
Patricia L. Cummings – October 2013
Recently, I happened to spot a lovely silk scarf draped over an upholstered chair in a shop that sells used goods, many of
them “vintage.” I was drawn to view this textile more closely because of its black and white line drawings of (12) women
surrounded by circular wreaths beribboned at the top. Under each image is the name of the woman and her occupation
(written in another language). My first fleeting impression was that the scarf perhaps originated in Italy but the names did
not exactly look Italian.
Price Was Right!
Nervously, I took the beautiful red, white and black scarf to the counter and asked for the price as the item had no tag. The
answer was, “Is $3 dollars okay?” I was stunned and grateful. Of course! The price was more than just okay, it was
fabulous! For little more than the price of a bar of dark chocolate, this treasure is now mine! I just knew I would have fun
trying to find out more about the women honored on the scarf’s surface!
Fine Women of Cataluña
An Internet search on the first couple of names made it clear that they all might have some connection Cataluña, (or
Catalonia, in English), a northeastern area of Spain that borders the Mediterranean Sea on one side, the rest of Spain on its
opposite flank, and the Pyrenees Mountains and France, including the small border country of Andorra (the smallest
country in the world) to its north.
Tangible Expressions of Regionalism Banned
Residents of this region of Spain speak Catalán, a language that Dictator Francisco Franco tried to outlaw during the
Spanish Civil War. The region and another region, Galicia, whose residents speak Gallego, were victims of merciless
oppression during Franco’s quest to “unify” Spain by imposing Castilian Spanish as the official language and by burning
books in any other language spoken in Spain. At the same time, Franco demanded that regional dances and costumes be
discontinued as well as any manifestations of distinct regionalism.
Dr. Alberto Casás
My first encounter with anyone from that area was as a student at the University of New Hampshire in the early 1970s. I
was privileged to participate in a course in Spanish Civilization and Culture conducted in Spanish by Alberto Casás, Ph.D.
(1919-2009) originally from Barcelona, the most widely-known city in Cataluña. A very learned and distinguished man,
Casás was only 18 years old when he fought in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). He spoke of Franco’s bloody reign of
terror, churches being burnt to the ground, and a total disregard for Education. Franco wanted Madrid to be the seat of all
power in Spain and thought that by banning locally-spoken languages, Spain could become more unified.
Scarf features 12 Catalan women, including a queen!
Names of Outstanding Women from Cataluña and Their Descriptions on the Scarf
1) Caterina Albert, escriptora, (1873-1966)
2) Leonor Ferrer, dissenyadora industrial (segle XIX)
3) Elisenda de Montcada (1292-1364)
4) Margarida Xirgu, actria, (1888-1969)
5) Duoda, escriptora, (segle IX)
6) Carme Karr, periodista, publicist (1865-1943)
7) Margarida Comas, biologa (1897-1970)
8) Trinitat Saís, metgessa (1879-1933)
9) Rosa Sensat, pedagoga (1874-1943)
10) Lola Anglada, illustradora (1892-1984)
11) Dolors Monserda, reformists católica, escriptora (1873-1961)
12) Teresa Claramunt, sindicalista (1862-1931)
Biographical Information Gleaned Online
1) *Caterina Albert (1873-1966) was born in a rural area, l’Esala (Alt Empordá). Examples of her prose writing,
considered to be some of the best in the Catalán language, include, “Solitud,” “Drames rurals” (1902), “Ombrivoles”
(1904), and “Caires Virus”(1907). One web entry states that her work explores the theme of “cruel people dominated by
fatalism.” Her pen name was that of a man: Victor Catalá.
2) *Leonor Ferrer: She is called an "industrial designer" (whatever that term may mean) of the 19th century. No other
information has yet been found about this woman.
3) *Elisenda de Montcada (1292-1364) became the “Queen consort of Aragon” by her marriage to King James II of
Aragon in 1322. As his second wife, she became step-mother to his ten children. He died after only five years of marriage
and she took up residence in a monastery they had founded. She stayed at the Monastery of Pedraibes from 1328 until her
death, although she never became a nun.
4) *Margarida Xirgu (1888-1969) was born in Molins de Rei in Cataluña and became a stage actress and dear friend to
Federico García Lorca, the famous and esteemed Spanish poet who was executed during the Spanish Civil War, possibly
because he was suspected to be a homosexual. Margarida was forced to leave Spain for her own safety during that war
which ended in 1939.
She began a film career in 1909 with her first film “Guzmán el Bueno.” She started her own theatre company in 1911, a
remarkable feat for a woman of that time. She starred in “Bodas de Sangre” written by Lorca and filmed in Feb/Mar 1938,
the only film with sound that she made. In 1966, the film was first aired on television. Xirgu died in Maldonado, Uruguay in
1969 and her remains were returned to the town of her origin in 1988 where they are now interred. Her official biographer
is Antonina Rodrigo.
5) *Duoda (c. 810-?) was the Countess of Barcelona according to the scarf. She lived during the difficult and violent
9th century. The only pages found about her online are in Catalán. The translations that I sought by automatic translators
are poorly interpreted. Due to my background in Spanish, I was able to discern the following information. Douda
(sometimes written as “Dhouda”), was born to a family of nobility circa 810 and married Bernatde Gotia in 824. Her son
was born two years later in 826. Shortly thereafter and for unknown reasons, she was sent to live in a castle located in the
southwest of France and was separated from her husband until her death (date unknown).
She is known for her book, Manual per au meu fill, written in 841 or 842 for her son. Described as a pedagogical treatise of
the Middle Ages,” the book is important due to it being the first book of its genre written by a woman. She includes ideas of
moral theology, among them the thought that all should show courtesy to everyone, not just peers, and that this practice
could bring not only happiness on earth but eternal salvation. Her second work, Edat Mitjana (843) is another instructive
6) *Carme Karr (1865-1943) wore many hats. She was a magazine editor, a publicist, a feminist, a musicologist and
song composer. Said to have family roots in France, Karr edited the journal, “Feminal,” a literary magazine for an audience
of Spanish women.
7) *Margarida Comas (1897-1970) was an advocate of social equality, the rights of women, and innovations in
education. She was one of the first graduates in Biology at the University of Barcelona and continued her studies in London
and Paris. She became chair of the Department of Natural Science at the University of Oviedo, and later taught at the
Escola Normal de Mestres de Tarragona. She was named Director of the Normal School of the Government of the new
Republican regime in 1931. She returned to Cataluña in 1934 to join the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Barcelona.
When the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, she moved to Bilbao (in the northern Spanish province of Galicia). In 1937,
she emigrated to England where she was able to be among educational peers and where she conducted further research. A
leader in education, she wrote the following books: Our Church Schools (1930); The MacKinder Method (1930); The Co-
education of the Sexes (1931); and The Method of Projects in Urban Schools (1931).
8) *Trinitat Saís (1879-1933), described on the scarf as a doctor, was born in La Bisbal del Ampurán, Barcelona, and
was just the 8th woman from her region to study medicine (1896-1903) at the University of Barcelona. Her specialties were
Toxicology and Pediatrics. Strongly preoccupied with the role of hygiene and health, she was particularly concerned with
the practice of cleanliness as it affected the health of babies and their mortality rate.
9) *Rosa Sensat (1873-1943). No specific information was found about the life of this woman described on the scarf
as a “pedagogue.” However, an organization with the same name was founded in 1965 and concerns itself with the many
10) *Lola Anglada (1892-1984) was a writer and illustrator who illustrated three of her own (9) books. She is
considered to be one of the last “classical Catalan illustrators of the 20th century.” Her pre-Spanish Civil War writings are
valued and she often collaborated with magazines for children including, “En Jordi,” “En Patufet,” La Nun,” and “La
11) *Dolors Monserda (1873-1931) is described as a Catholic reformer and writer on the scarf. No other information
about her was found.
12) *Teresa Claramunt (1862-1931) is called a “sindicalista” (trade unionist) on the scarf and a Spanish anarchist in an
online file. A page in Spanish on Wikipedia provides some highlights of her life, information gleaned from a work by “Laura
Vicente (2006): Teresa Claramunt: Pionera del feminismo obrerista anarquista. Madrid: Fundación Anselmo Lorenzo.
Biografías y Memorias, 4.”
In 1892 Claramunt founded the first feminist society in Spain called “Sociedad Autónoma de Mujeres de Barcelona” (1893).
She was detains after a bomb explosion at el Liceo de Barcelona (1893) and was arrested during the repression of the
Proceso de Montjuic (1896). Although never condemned for any crime, Claramunt was expatriated to England until 1898.
When she returned to Spain, she created the magazine “El Producto” (1901) and was a social activist until her death in
1931. In 1902, she stood with metal workers and in support of a general strike of workers. She collaborated with other
publications and she directed “El Rebelde” for two years (1907-1908).
The earliest lived woman featured on the scarf is the Queen born in the 13th century. The women honored enjoyed a
variety of occupations. They were women who spoke their minds and shared their thoughts and alliances via writing,
illustrating, teaching, founding societies that promoted feminism, and speaking out politically at a time when those kinds of
actions by women would have been thought to be unusual or unseemly. Although all would have raised the eyebrows of
“polite” society, in their own way they were following the example that was being set in other countries such as the United
States who has its fair share of heroines, free-thinkers, and trendsetters who were born in the 19th century.
Origin of Scarf
The scarf was designed by Maria Rosa Seux and published under the auspices of “Generalitat de Catalunya, Department de
la Presidéncia, Commissió Interdepartmental de Promoció de la Dona.” Elsewhere on the scarf is written the phrase,
“Catalunya 1000 ANYS.”
Textiles that include words are always meaningful whether the words denote or describe people, locations, or monuments,
natural or man-made. Printed words on fabric are always fascinating and can lend understanding as to why the textile was
created. In this case, a simple scarf led to the discovery of a dozen highly-revered Spanish women, all of whom were in
some way associated with a particular region of Spain, Cataluña.
In 2011, I wrote a book about Sweetheart and Mother Pillows. a one-of-a-kind, landmark study of military pillow (cover)
collectibles from both major World Wars and the years of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Some of the pillow covers
feature poetry and the name of bases or the words “Souvenir de France.” The writing on each pillow led to findings about
battles, discontinued military bases, and famous heroes.
Words are important and go far beyond just an image in helping the viewer to understand the meaning or importance of a
textile. Sometimes, words on textiles personalize an object in relation to its maker. Sometimes, words are related to a
greater theme such as the quilt I made which I call “Liberty is Our Motto,” borrowing the words of a song sung by New
Hampshire’s own folksingers, the Hutchinson Family Singers who traveled the world espousing abolition, suffrage, and
temperance themes in their music. Words can lend a lot of meaning to any textile.
More Information Sought
I would love to know even more information about the (12) women presented on the scarf or about its designer and/or the
government agency in Spain that generated it. If anyone has more details to share, I would love to hear from you! Write to:
Copyright 2013/2015. Patricia L. Cummings, Quilter's Muse Publications, Concord, New Hampshire. All Rights Reserved.