From Clara Campoamor to Margarita Salas

Whether they be actresses or athletes, chefs or scientists, their extensive achievements have helped shape Spain. Here are just a few of Spain’s most influential women, who have each contributed something essential to the history of the places they come from.

Clara Campoamor, from Madrid

Campoamor is widely accredited as one of the main catalysts behind women’s suffrage in Spain, which was achieved in 1931. She was a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1931 along with only two other women who advocated suffrage. Women’s right to vote was fully achieved and exercised in 1933; Campoamor went on to publish El voto femenino y yo: Mi pecado mortal (The Female Vote and I: My Deadly Sin).

Elena Arzak, from Basque Country

Elena Arzak is widely regarded as one of the best female chefs in the world. She works alongside her father as head chef of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Arzak. Elena began her career at the age of 11, becoming the fourth generation in her family to work in the restaurant. Despite being known for its creativity, Arzak’s menu keeps its ties to the cuisine of the Basque Country, a region with a rich culinary heritage, and one that has long nurtured female chefs.

Margarita Salas, from Asturias

Salas is one of the most famous Spanish scientists, renowned for her work in the fields of biochemistry and molecular genetics. Among her major scientific contributions, perhaps her most famous is the discovery and characterization of Φ29 phage DNA polymerase, which has multiple biotechnological applications due to its high DNA amplification ability.

Montserrat Caballé, from Catalonia

The voice of Barcelona around the world, Caballé earned international renown as one of the greatest sopranos of the 20th century. She became popular with the general music audience in 1987 when she recorded a duet with Freddie Mercury, “Barcelona”, which became the official theme song for the 1992 Olympic Games.

Edurne Pasaban, from Basque Country

Edurne Pasaban shot to stardom in 2010 when she became the first woman (and 21st person ever) to climb all 14 of the eight-thousander (meter) peaks. Pasaban was born in Tolosa in the Basque Country, one of Spain’s areas of greatest natural diversity. She completed the first of her 8,000m (26,246.72 ft) peaks in 2001 when she climbed Mount Everest. Nine years later, she completed the feat by summiting Shishapangma. She is admired for her sheer courage, having completed 13 of the 14 without oxygen.

Penelope Cruz, from Madrid

“I grew up in a place called Alcobendas”…” The most successful international Spanish actress of all time, born in Alcobendas (Madrid) in 1974, began her Oscar speech with these words. Cruz was the first Spaniard ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress; this was for her role in Volver. She later became the first Spanish actress to win an Oscar for her role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona by Woody Allen, a movie that pays tribute to the main tourist attractions of the capital city of Catalonia.

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