Objects of the Museu Comarcal de l’Horta Sud Josep Ferrís March


Gender and education

Access to formal education in the Horta district developed in a gradual, limited and unequal manner. The model of schooling legislated by the state which would regulate education between 1860 and 1940 corresponds to that of a patriarchal society, based on an interpretation of the differences between men and women, and was unfavourable to the latter. Education was oriented towards reinforcing the sexual division of labour: plans called for lessons in separate schools and the female curriculum focused mainly on domestic matters. The Moyano Act of 1857 provides for the following ‘Tasks suited to their sex. Elements of drawing applicable to these tasks. Simple fundamentals of domestic hygiene.’ The slight advances towards co-education that occurred during the republican period suffered a setback in schooling under National Catholicism, which assigned women the role of wife and mother within the domestic sphere.

Granera (broom)

Sexual division of labour

The broom clearly represents the sexual division of labour which characterizes our traditional culture, based on the dualities man/woman, production/reproduction, public space/domestic space. In our imagery, it is linked to the woman and the domestic sphere, but the trade associated with its production and distribution was performed by men.

Tasks being divided by gender is a common occurrence in all cultures. In the early 20th century, men and women had different responsibilities in the propagation of the family. The man was supposed to contribute the ‘product’ of his ‘labour’, while the woman was the ‘breeder’, with obligations around procreation, rearing/bringing up children, food processing and the wellbeing of the household. This does not mean that women did not engage in ‘productive’ activities, especially among the common people of l’Horta. However, in practice, consideration of contributions based on gender was marked by an unequal assignment of value.



Maternity / Paternity

Over the course of the 19th century, the bourgeois concept of nuclear family took shape, reinforcing the emotional bonds between progenitors and their offspring and focusing paternity/maternity on education and socialization of the children. The woman took on special importance in child rearing and their upbringing, idealizing her image as mother, while the father was the moral example and the one who focused attention on instructing the children, especially the sons. This primarily affected the upper levels of society, but gradually spread to the rest of the social classes. Amongst the lower strata, the need to contribute to supporting the family hindered access to education. In any case, even though the mother was responsible for child rearing, control over all members of the family fell to the father, who legally exercised parental authority over the children and legal guardianship of his wife.

Shoe sewing machine

Sexual division of labour

In Torrent, a shoe-making industry developed in the mid-20th century which employed women at home. The pieces of leather that made up the shoes were cut out at the factory by male operators and distributed amongst the aparadoras, women who worked in their own home or that of another, sewing together the pieces on machines like this one. This was piecework; they were paid per item completed. Generally, young women would learn at the house of an expert woman, who would employ them for a period. Once they had been trained, they obtained their own machine, either paying in instalments or purchasing it second-hand, and they became independent. Such work done at home was not legally recognized, and like other jobs performed by women, it was deemed an ‘aid’ to the family economy. Working from home allowed women to take care of the tasks considered the responsibility of their gender (keeping up the house, raising the children, etc.).

Sausage-making machine, Elma brand, model 22

Sexual division of labour

Production activities performed by women in traditional society have been essential to maintaining and reproducing the family unit. Linked to the domestic sphere, food preservation and processing, making clothing, supplying water, firewood, maintaining the fire, caring for domestic animals, selling any surplus, taking care of the sick and elderly, raising the children, healing, cleaning and organizing the domestic space are all essential tasks for survival. However, as they were deemed fitting for their ‘nature’, they were not defined as work. A woman was valued for her ability to perform such tasks, considered virtues, but she was denied recognition of them as work, rendering her contributions invisible.

Letter stating the dowry of Carmen Mora Mas and capital of Pascual Vilarroya Andreu

Gender and life cycle: marriage

Gender and property

In traditional culture, marriage was subordinate to family interests. People sought to arrange marriages between families of the same social class or area. The woman was transferred from the guardianship of her father to that of her husband. And what the woman contributed to the marriage generally came from the parents’ shared possessions. Its value meant the difference between a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ marriage for her. Although the husband became the administrator and manager of these assets, they belonged to the wife, and she could recover them in the event of dissolution of the marriage or widowhood.

Legal regulations and how they were applied clearly reflect a patriarchal society in which the woman’s role was relegated to a secondary position. Throughout history, the development of private property, along with the development of maternal hereditary rights, has confirmed the status of the male figure as the head of the family and the woman’s subordination to him. The man is thus placed in the role of owner and manager of the assets, having responsibility for them, whereas the woman is relegated to a role that allows her almost no access to any assets, preventing her from being autonomous and leading her into a life of dependence.

Laundry sink

Sexual division of labour

The work of cleaning and maintaining the family clothing has traditionally fallen to women. Laundry could be done at home in sinks like this one, or in buckets, bowls or other containers; or also outdoors, in rivers, pools, irrigation channels or wash houses.

In wealthy families, laundry-related tasks fell to female servants or professional washerwomen were used. The difficult trade of laundress developed particularly in urban environments. They would collect the dirty clothes from various families and bring them back clean a few days later.

The introduction of the household electric washing machine was viewed as a real revolution in the domestic work assigned to women. Today, our society is still hampered by the fact that women are responsible for the majority of the household chores, with Spanish women devoting an average of double or triple the time of men to such tasks. Within this context, unfortunately, some advertisements for cleaning products continue to feature women as their main protagonist, perpetuating received gender roles.