A few weeks ago, I published the translation of an excellent post by Spanish blogger El Tivípata, telling the sad story of Aurora Rodríguez Carballeira and her daughter Hildegart. It caused quite a reaction, probably due to the fact that a feminist woman obsessed with women’s oppression sculpted her daughter to be the solution for that, and when she started drifting from the path her mother had chosen for her, she murdered her in her sleep. Dr. O from the Honey Badger Brigade blog team told me that he had tried to find more information about them in Wikipedia, and that he had found no mention whatsoever of them being feminists. On the occasion of feminist edit-a-thons of Wikipedia, I think it is only fit that we review what the real story was, and what Wikipedia tells us.
Aurora, born presumably in 1879, had no formal education, and she educated herself with the help of her father’s library, which was heavily progressive and utopian socialist. She got reforming and eugenic ideas: eugenics, inspired by Darwinism, defend the enhancement of human beings and their hereditary traits by means of manipulation and artificial selection, much like the way we select dogs to create new breeds. Eugenics wants to breed stronger, healthier and more intelligent people. In the case of Aurora, she got the idea of creating a woman that would be educated, liberated and free, to initiate a wave of non-oppressed women. She knew what a perfect woman had to be like. Of course, we can’t forget that one of the most awful examples of eugenics-gone-wrong is Nazi eugenics: the Holocaust was just the practical application of a eugenic idea: stopping inferior or imperfect people from breeding by means of execution or sterilization: homosexuals, mentally-ill or disabled people, Jews, gypsies…
Aurora had a sister named Josefa who got pregnant while being single. Josefa left her son, Pepito, under the care of Aurora (who was only 16 at the time), and she educated the boy through eugenics until he became a child prodigy as a piano player and composer (he composed a habanera entitled Aurora when he was about 3 years old). But as soon as the boy started getting famous, his mother came back and took him away from Aurora in order to profit from his career as a piano player (the boy was about 5 years old). Pepito was an instant success and got to play in front of the Spanish queen; he studied in Berling with Richard Strauss and got chosen as a court pianist by Wilhelm II. But let’s leave for now this case of exploitation of a boy by her mother and aunt, and let’s go back to Aurora.
Aurora’s experiment had being frustrated by her sister. If she was to repeat it successfully, the child had to be just hers. She got obsessed with raising a daughter who would grow up to be a woman that was the embodiment of her ideas on women’s liberation. We know the rest of the story. A “physiological collaborator” (never a “father”) got her pregnant, and she moved to Madrid, to raise her daughter on her own. Once Hildegart became an international figure, she committed herself politically, and naturally tried to separate herself from her possessive mother, who was afraid there was a conspiracy to ruin her “flesh sculpture”. Auora murdered Hildegart with a handgun and was condemned to 26 years in prison (she actually ended up in a mental hospital). She was buried in a common grave.
We find no Wikipedia page for Aurora Rodríguez Carballeira in English; we just have them in Galician, Catalan, Breton and Bulgarian. The original Spanish page is quite short, and makes no mention of the word “feminist”; it only says “women’s rights” (once). Now let’s move to Hildegart:
Her Spanish Wikipedia page tells us that Hildegart was actually named Hildegart Leocadia Georgina Hermenegilda María del Pilar Rodríguez Carballeira. Until she was four, her father visited her regularly (thus proving that he actually wanted to be more than just a “physiological collaborator”), but then Aurora suspected that he could have an influence on her, and prevented him from doing so. No comments.
Hildegart was a very active member of the PSOE (Spanish socialist party) and she was very popular among the grassroots. When she published a letter criticizing an alliance of the PSOE with a particular candidate, she was expelled from the party. That was when she joined the Federal Party and became a harsh critic of the “socialist wirepullers”.
Hildegart was also a very committed person in the Spanish sexual reformation, and made connections with international figures like Havelock Ellis, Margaret Sanger and H. G. Wells. She became the secretary of the Spanish League for Sexual Reformation and published many books that were widely popular: Youth’s sexual rebelliousness, Anti-conception prophylaxis, The sexual problem treated by a Spanish woman, Methods to avoid pregnancy... It was precisely her connection with H. G. Wells, who intended to take her to London in order to help her develop her potential, which triggered her mother’s paranoia. Aurora is reported to have complained to Hildegart in these terms: “I have brought you to the world in order to take care of the status of women, not for socialist and communist matters”. This next sentence is also attributed to her, after having murdered her 19-year-old daughter: “The sculptor, after discovering a minimal imperfection in his work, destroys it”.
Hildegart’s Wikipedia page is available in Breton, Catalan, German, English, Esperanto, French, Galician and Polish. The English page is short and concise, but tells us a few details: apparently, when Hildegart was still in her mother’s womb, Aurora used a clock to wake up every hour in order to change position, so blood irrigated the fetus uniformly. Nothing is said about her political connections, and only a bit about the sexual reformation part. And it also makes us doubt about how many times and where Hildegart was shot (some say three times to the head and one to the heart, others twice in the head and twice in the heart, and others talk about a shot to the genitals as well).
The important point here is that, this time, there is absolutely no mention of feminism or women’s rights, just a brief mention of “the woman of the future” project. It seems like much care has been taken not to connect any of this unsettling story with feminist ideology. Not even with the left, for heaven’s sake (no mention of politics in the English page, just in the lower “Categories” section). And that’s quite apparent, because in most Spanish publications (even feminist publications), and in the general opinion, both Aurora and Hildegart are regarded as two of the most important figures of socialism and feminism in Spain. Yes, FEMINISM, that word that Wikipedia tries to avoid like the plague. After the murder, the Spanish right-wing of the time considered the case an example of what radical feminism was like. So the attempts of paraphrasing and avoiding certain words are just… pathetic. And what’s more, revealing.
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