Nelken, Margarita (1896–1968)

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Nelken, Margarita (1896–1968)

Spanish art critic, feminist, and politician during the Second Republic. Name variations: Margarita Nelken Mansberger; Margarita Nelkin; Margarita Nelken de Paul. Born in Spain in 1896; died in Mexico in 1968.

Born in 1896 and a native of Madrid, Margarita Nelken established a reputation as a painter and art critic. She had exhibitions of her paintings in the major continental cities and wrote for the principal art journals of Europe and South America. Meanwhile, she also became involved in leftist politics, partly from determination to improve the condition of Spanish women.

In 1931, when the Spanish Second Republic was created following the abdication of King Alphonso XIII, Nelken became directly engaged in the political turmoil that beset Spain between the two world wars. She stood as a candidate from Badajoz for the Constituent Cortes (national assembly) in 1931 and was elected. Representing the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, Nelken was re-elected in both 1933 and 1936. During the Civil War, she joined the Spanish Communist Party and adopted an unexpectedly extremist position. Her criticism of other parties in the leftist coalition contributed to divisions among the Republican ranks and weakened the war effort against Franco's Nationalists. Fleeing Spain in 1939 at the end of the war, she went to Mexico, where she became a leading figure in artistic circles. Nelken died in Mexico in 1968.

Among her writings are La condición social de la mujer en España (1922); Tres tipos de virgenes (1929); Las escritoras españolas (1930); Porqué hicimos la revolución (1936); and El expresionismo en la plástica mexicana de hoy (1964).

Kendall W. Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah