Centre for the Study of Hispanic Exile

María de la O Lejárraga [1874–1974]

Date of Birth: 1874 San Millán de la Cogolla, La Rioja
Died: 1974 Buenos Aires (age 101)

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Playwright, writer, feminist and socialist activist. Also known by her married name, María Martínez Sierra (wife of playwright Gregorio Martínez Sierra, who, with her consent, published and performed many of María's plays in his own name).

Time Table

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1874–1897 Madrid
San Millán de la Cogolla, La Rioja
Born in December to an educated family. Attends school. Studies at the Escuela Normal and begins work as a teacher in a working-class district of Madrid.
1897 Falls in love with future husband Gregorio, seven years her junior, a friend of her brothers. They collaborate on a number of works: El poema del trabajo (1898), Diálogos fantásticos (1899), Cuentos breves (1899), Flores de escarcha (1900) and Almas ausentes (1900).
Nov 1900 María and Gregorio are married.
1905 Paris
Obtains a grant to study Psychology in Paris. Gregorio, ill with TB, is advised that the climate there will suit him better.
1907 Gregorio meets Cuban actress Catalina Bercena.
1915 Gregorio forms a theatre company with Bercena, with whom he has a long-term affair.
1922 Gregorio and Catalina have a child. María accepts the situation and continues to write plays in Gregorio's name. She becomes involved in the feminist movement and in organizations promoting the education of women.
1925 Gregorio's theatre company goes on tour around Europe and America. María lives off the money he sends her sporadically in exchange for the plays she writes in his name.
1926–1936 Becomes involved in the feminist Lyceum Club of Madrid.
1931 Founds the Asociación Femenina de Educación Cívica. Becomes active in the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE).
1936 Switzerland
María goes to Switzerland when the civil war breaks out.
1939 Nice/France
Moves to Nice, where she owns a small holiday house. Gregorio, now in Buenos Aires, sends her money from time to time.
1947 Gregorio dies of stomach cancer. María has cataracts and is unable to see or write.
1948 María begins to use her own name and claim authorship of previous works, in order to earn royalties.
1950 Buenos Aires
New York
María sells the house in Nice and moves to New York, then to Hollywood. She fails in her attempt to sell her stories and comedies there. She moves to Mexico, then to Buenos Aires, where she spends the last 24 years of her life, writing, translating, and working for the press.
1952 Buenos Aires
Publishes an autobiographical work, Una mujer por caminos de España, which nostalgically evokes her passionate social commitment to the Republican project in Spain and her sense of loss at its failure.
1960 Publishes Fiesta en el Olimpo y otras diversiones menos olímpicas, the only collection of her plays to be written independently of her husband and published in her name.
Jun 1974 Buenos Aires
Dies aged 100.
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María de la O Lejárraga
Website with biographical information and a short extract from Fiesta en el olimpo (1960).
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