Dolores Ibarruri, "Pasionaria"

Dolores Ibarruri Gómez,  * 1895 (Gallarta)   1989 (Madrid) Spain

Fields of activity: spanish politician, speaker and women’s and workers’ rights activist.

“A married woman was a domestic slave with no rights. At home, the wife lost her personality; she devoted herself, out of desperate need, to a life of sacrifice. She put up with the weight of her work and deprivation, looking for any means possible to make the life of her children and her husband more pleasant, easier, less difficult, to the point that she herself was wiped out, eventually becoming “the old lady” who “doesn’t understand”, who is always in the middle, who, in the best of cases, is a servant for the children, a child-minder for the grandchildren”.

Memorias de Dolores Ibárruri: Pasionaria: La lucha y la vida

(Dolores Ibárruri’s Memoirs: Pasionaria: The struggle and life)


A Spanish communist leader, she was born in Gallarta, a town in the Biscay region of the Basque Country in 1895. The granddaughter, daughter, wife and sister of miners, from a very young age she was familiar with the hardships of a working home. Her transformation from a simple village woman into a revolutionary and communist militant took place slowly, and was a reaction to the subhuman situation in which mining families lived and the influence of the religious education received in schools and families.


1909-1910: She began her preparatory studies to enter the teacher training college and undertake her studies. Later, she was forced to drop out of her studies to work as a seamstress and servant.

1917: She became interested in the workers’ struggle and joined the protests for mining men and families in the general strike that year. Soon she joined the socialist group in Somorrostro.

1918-1920: She married the communist leader Julián Ruiz, with whom she had 6 children. An avid reader, she became familiar with Marxist literature and further developed her knowledge of socialism. That same year, she published her first article in the magazine “Minero Vizcaíno” and signed it with the pseudonym La Pasionaria. Later, in 1920, she was elected a member of the first Provincial Committee of the Vizcaya Communist Party.

1928-1931: She attended the III Conference of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE- Partido Comunista Español) as a delegate. At the end of 1931, the party´s management decided she should move to Madrid, to work as editor of the main Communist Party newspaper, Mundo Obrero. One day, as she left the newspaper buildings, she was arrested and brought from the Quiñones prison to the Larrínaga prison in Bilbao. No one took a statement from her, or explained the reasons for her arrest. In future years, due to her active political affiliation in communist protests and her pointed speeches, she was often imprisoned and persecuted by the authorities.

1932-1934: During the IV Conference of the Spanish Communist Party she was elected head of the Female Committee of the Party. In August 1934, a Spanish delegation led by Dolores Ibárruri and other women such as Carmen Loyola, Encarnación Fuyola, Irene Falcón and Elisa Uriz, attended the First Worldwide Meeting of Women against War and Fascism, held in Paris. The Anti-fascist Women’s Organization played an important role in the training of female political activists who fought for the Republic and against the fascist military oppression of that time. At the end of that year, when repression was becoming widespread among workers in Asturias, she travelled with Ms Isabel de Albacete and Ms Alicia García, to help families who had fallen victim to the repression in Asturias.

1935: She was elected as part of a delegation of the Spanish Communist Party, to attend the VII Conference of the Communist International in Moscow. Upon her return, she was imprisoned again due to her political participation. Her concern regarding the constant arrests was one of the reasons why she decided to send her children to study in Russia.

1937: That year she was elected Vice-president of the Parliament and had an important role on account of her activity against the regime of the time. Some of her famous phrases supporting the republican cause are from this period. It was there, at that time, that her phrase “Antes morir de pie que vivir de rodillas” (Better to die standing up than to live kneeling down) was made famous, as well as her motto “No pasarán!” (They shall not pass), which was coined during the Siege of Madrid.

1939-1942: During the war she was promoted to the second position of influence in the party, after the General Secretary, José Díaz. That year, she coordinated the emigration of Spanish people to the USSR, where she was sent and where she would lose her only son Rubén Ruiz Ibárruri during the combats in the central rail station of Stalingrad. In 1942 she became the General Secretary of the PCE and moved to Paris. A decade later, Dolores was sent to Czechoslovakia where she broadcasted Radio España Independiente.

1960-1961: She wrote her memoires entitled El único camino (The only way) and later, Memorias de Pasionaria (1939-1977) (Pasionaria’s memoires). In the Soviet Union, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in history by the University of Moscow. In her acceptance speech she said: “…I accept this as a homage to our country laborers, to our women, to our working youth, who barely knew the first letters, and through no fault of their own, knew, however, how to write with their blood and their life, immortal pages of glory and heroism in the different stages of our country’s troubled history”.

1964-1965: Dolores received the Lenin Peace Prize, and later, the Order of Lenin.

1977: During the transition to democracy in Spain, and after the death of General Franco, Dolores returned to Spain. She arrived in Madrid on 13 May 1977, after 38 years in exile. She was once again elected as a member of parliament for Asturias in the first democratic elections in Spain.

1983: Near the end of her life, she participated in the protests of mothers in the Plaza de Mayo, in Argentina, demanding the dictatorship to return their disappeared relatives alive.

1989: The Pasionaria never abandoned her revolutionary activity. She died in Madrid that year, at the age of ninety four. She was buried in the civil grounds of the Almudena Cemetery.

During the XVII Conference of the Communist Party, held in June 2005, Dolores Ibárruri was elected “Perpetual Honorary President”.

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