Women faced conflicting demands under Francisco Franco's program of National Catholicism, finding themselves at the center of the regime's efforts to preserve tradition while promoting modernization. Even as state-sponsored economic development created a modern consumer society, church-influenced laws and institutions dictated female domesticity and upheld feminine ideals of asexuality, self-denial, and limited educational development.
Imaginatively using diverse sources—including interviews, magazine advertisements, and university archives—Morcillo addresses the tension between expectations for the traditional woman, whose primary value to the state was reproductive, and those for the modern consumer-housewife ideal that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s. She pays particular attention to women's experiences in higher education and in the "Women's Section" of the Falange. Her highly textured history of major women's organizations from the 1940s through the 1960s demonstrates that women successfully negotiated these contradictory demands while creating a vibrant and meaningful public space for social activism. At the same time, their spiritual devotion protected Spanish women from state retribution in their search for "true Catholic womanhood."
True Catholic Womanhood adds new insights into the gender dynamics of authoritarian states, providing a unique window through which to view the process of modernization and the transition toward democracy. It is essential reading for everyone interested in modern Spain, Catholicism, European women's history, and authoritarian social politics.