Encarnación Lemus (Villafranca de los Barros, 1960), professor of Contemporary History at the University of Huelva, is the new Spanish National History Prize. A jury that included the historians Javier Moreno Luzón and Enrique Moradiellos and the art historian Estrella de Diego chose his work Ellas yesterday. The students of the Residencia de Señoritas (Chair) because it “offers a renewed look at one of the key institutions in the incorporation of women into the country’s social modernization process”. The award, granted by the Ministry of Culture and Sport, is endowed with 30,000 euros.

The jury emphasized that the book is “a choral biography, a generational and socio-professional portrait of the Spanish women who took the lead in a real revolution. Women who broke the mold, nurturing the first vanguards of professions forbidden to the presence of women”. Through abundant correspondence, the author “lets the real protagonists have their say, 1,300 women who mostly arrived in Madrid from other parts of Spain to begin a real social and cultural transformation”.

Lemus recalls in his book that in 1910 the restriction was lifted so that Spanish women could officially enter higher education. “In the academic year 1909-1910, 21 Spanish women studied in university classrooms and between 1910 and 1920 their presence continued to be rather anecdotal, but the Residencia de Señoritas succeeded in implanting a new model of women in the decade of the twenties” . In contrast, he points out, “around 1910 in the USA there were 140,000 students in higher education, 39.6% of the student body”.

The Residencia de Señoritas, promoted and directed by María de Maeztu, opened in the academic year 1915-16, when there were 145 university students in Spain, of which about 60 studied in Madrid, many for free, without traveling to the capital except for exams. He opened the legendary Residencia de Estudiantes, also created in 1910 by the Board for the Extension of Studies, in the facilities that were then abandoned.

The Residencia de Señoritas, points out Lemus, intended that living in a comfortable and safe environment would encourage young women to continue their education. From the beginning it was not just a place to stay and functioned as a teaching center where everything from modern languages ​​to philosophy and practical classes in the laboratory were taught. Its operation was inseparable from the connection with the International Institute for Girls in Spain, an American institution that had been promoting women’s education in Spain since the 19th century and where Maeztu was already a professor. The institutions merged and an agreement was negotiated with the American institution whereby American women who came to study Spanish could stay and receive classes at the Residencia, and several American women’s colleges offered scholarships for the Spanish ones, which had an impact on the emergence of the first generation of Spanish scientists. Some of its residents entered the cultural and political history of the twenties and thirties, such as Carmen Conde, Elena Fortún, Josefina Carabias or Victoria Kent.