One of the more interesting individuals I have been able to research during my time at MSPP has been Hildegart Rodríguez Carballeira.

I came across her name as I was editing a chapter in the upcoming volumes. As I searched for her online to confirm the spelling of her name, of course, her Wikipedia page came up.

And of course, I clicked on it.

Within the first few lines of her article it states, “By the time she was 17 years old and had became internationally known, her mother shot her to death.”[1]

Wait, what???

Talk about cliff hanger. Obviously, I had to pursue further.

HRCchild

Hildegart Rodríguez Carballeira, age & date taken unknown (Carmona, Ángela, Rosas y espinas. Álbum de las españolas del siglo XX, Planeta, 2004).

Hildegart was born on December 9, 1914 to Dona Aurora Rodriguez. Dona Aurora is reported to have told friends that she wanted a child to reflect beauty and intelligence. She therefore chose a man that she believed was ideal to reproduce these characteristics. She also noted that she only saw him once.[2]

Hildegart would become a prodigy guided by her mother’s close supervision. At age 13, Hildegart would enroll at the law school at Complutense University of Madrid, becoming a lawyer at 17.

Before 16, she had published various books and pamphlets, all focused on sexual reform. These works, including Sexo y Amor, La Revolucion Sexual and Educación Sexual, were successfully circulating in Madrid. [3]

bild(1)

Hildegart’s publication, Educación Sexual (Sexual Education), 1931 (Cultura Galega).

For Hildegart, the problem that was plaguing society was the sexual problem. It was the “terrible epidemic” of large families creating unhappy homes from which “all sorts of evils radiate.”[4]

This sexual problem would be solved by a sexual revolution. Who is it that we know was heading their own sexual revolution in the United States?

It was in October of 1931, at age 16, when Hildegart wrote to Margaret Sanger. Hildegart explained her accomplishments to Sanger, as well as her admiration for the work that Sanger has done in the United States, even mentioning that she has a photo of Sanger in her sitting room. [5] Hildegart was turning to Sanger to learn the American customs and laws regarding sex reform:

But the special motive of my writing to you is to beg your help for me in the work which I have enterprised, I would desire to know the laws, the propositions, the ideas and the books which are given to publicity in all countries but specially in United States of America where you can so well know the development of people in this interesting object.[6]

The correspondence between the two women would continue, however, there was another key character in these conversations; Havelock Ellis.

In a letter to Ellis, Sanger seems somewhat stunned and in disbelief about the prodigy from Spain, explaining:

I loved the jumps she made! Like a race horse run wild.[7]

At the beginning of December that year, Sanger would respond to Hildegart’s eager request by sending her literature on the sex and contraceptive movements in the United States. However, it was Ellis who would become enthralled with his “Spanish lawyer girl” calling her one of the “wonders of the world.”[8]

Hildegart Rodríguez Carballeira, age 19, (Cultura Galega).

Hildegart Rodríguez Carballeira, age & date unknown (Cultura Galega).

It would be Ellis who would piece together the wondrous story of Hildegart’s childhood. In 1933, Ellis published a profile, “The Red Virgin,” on the young woman.[9] She was able to read by the age of 22 months and by 2, she had good handwriting. Ellis described Hildegart’s careful instruction by her mother, which included sexual education.

Hildegart would write to Ellis that she was a eugenic child and that her mother had a master plan designed for Hildegart.[10] This master plan was carefully regulated as Hildegart’s mother was always with her.

Her mother is reported to have constantly reminded Hildegart to “remember [her] mission, love is only passing.”[11]

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Aurora Rodríguez Carballeira (La madre ejemplar).

Ellis, seemingly taken with Hildegart, was also intrigued by Hildegart’s mother and her methods of childrearing and instruction. To him, Aurora was a “new mother of today,” being thirty-one at her child’s birth and remaining “strong and youthful in spirit” to undertake the careful education of her daughter.[12]

Hildegart’s education didn’t stop after her law degree. In a letter to Sanger, Hildegart explains how she is studying medicine to gain knowledge of the how contraceptives work. She also expresses how she wants to begin a birth control clinic movement in Spain and therefore requests information from Sanger.[13]

Sanger, flattered that Hildegart continuously sought her input and resources, responds:

Your marvelous accomplishment is splendid; now that you have a new Government, you should have Birth Control Clinics all over Spain. They should be established and all instruction to working women and mothers given my women doctors(if possible)…I wish you would become a part of our international work and form a center of information in Spain.[14]

Well, Hildegart, accomplished and ambitious, takes this to heart.

In March, Hildegart invited Sanger to Spain to visit the World League conference. Hildegart had formed the Spanish chapter of the World League for Sexual Reform; Liga Mundial Para la Reforma Sexual.[15]

Ellis, however, was concerned about Hildegart’s ambition of organizing an international conference in Madrid.

In a letter to Sanger, Ellis writes that though Hildegart is “wonderfully accomplished and energetic, she is still so young and inexperienced in conference organization.” He also mentions that her youth could cause jealousy amongst other attendees, in particular the men.[16]

However, Sanger encouraged Hildegart to proceed with hosting a conference.

Hildegart, while pursuing so many projects, told Sanger she would do her best to arrange for the conference.

This was the last correspondence between the two women.

On June 9th, while Hildegart was asleep, her mother shot her four times.

Eleven months later, in June 1934, Aurora was found guilty of murder. She is described as having been “calm and collected” in the courtroom.

I knew she was going to run away with him, so I killed her. She was too good, too beautiful. She had a mission on this earth but it was not matrimony.

She would die in an asylum in 1955.

There are various ideas behind her mother’s motivation. One recurring idea is that Hildegart was intending to leave her mother. Her mother, unable to cope with her daughter leaving her, killed her.

Some claim that Hildegart had met a Catalan politician and deputy to the mayor in Barcelona. He had encouraged Hildegart to separate from her dominating mother. Aurora, having found Hildegart’s letters to the politician, killed her daughter to avoid their separation.

Others claim that she was planning to travel to England in order to visit Ellis or H.G. Wells.

The story of the young prodigy Hildegart remains, however, so do the questions surrounding her untimely passing.


[1] “Hildegart Hildegart Rodríguez Carballeira,” Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia, accessed: July 18, 2013.

[2] Allen, Jay, “Mother Slays Daughter Who Leads Women,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 10, 1933.

[3] Sinclair, Alison, “The World League for Sexual Reform in Spain: Founding, Infighting, and the Rold of Hildegart Rodriguez.” Journal of the History of Sexuality Vol. 12, No. 1 Jan. 2003: 98-109.

[4] Havelock Ellis, “The Red Virgin,” The Adelphi Vol. 6, No. 3 June 1933: 175-179.

[5] The Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress, LCM 19:1251.

[6] The Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress, LCM 19:1233.

[7] The Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress, LCM 06:0517.

[8]  The Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress, LCM 05:0312.

[9] The nickname, the Red Virgin, was a name given to Hildegart by comrades (Havelock Ellis, “The Red Virgin,” The Adelphi Vol. 6, No. 3 June 1933: 175-179.)

[10] Ibid.

[11] Allen, Jay, “Mother Slays Daughter Who Leads Women,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 10, 1933.

[12] Havelock Ellis, “The Red Virgin,” The Adelphi Vol. 6, No. 3 June 1933: 175-179.

[13] The Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress, LCM 19:1265.

[14] The Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress, LCM 19:1242.

[15] The Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress, LCM 19:1222.

[16] The Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress, LCM 05:0366.

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