specials | 2016-03-08
Edelmira Calvetó, the pioneer that broke barriers
Edelmira Calvetó was the first woman member of FC Barcelona, admitted more than 100 years ago during the presidency of Joan Gamper, thanks to her perseverance and personal fight.
More than 100 years have passed since Edelmira Calvetó defied social and juridical norms that ruled that age to become the first woman soci of FC Barcelona. It was on January 1, 1913 that this pioneer woman was registered as a member of the blaugrana club, despite the fact that the club’s bylaws written in 1911 only recognized male socis, 20 years before women had the right to vote.
Edelmira Calvetó Alsamora was born in Barcelona on July 1, 1884 – 15 years before Joan Gamper and a group of friends founded, on November 29th 1889, a male football club called "Foot-ball Club Barcelona", an entity formed only by men who wanted to practice this sport. It’s improbable that the teenager Calveró found out about the club then or that she knew that the club’s first bylaws written in 1902 banned women from being members. Article 7 started by saying “Registered members will be Spanish or foreign men that, having asked for this, were admitted by the Executive Board, have good manners and are over 16 years old.” In those days, football was a minority male sport in Catalonia.
Despite that, on February 7, 1910 when Edelmira married Pere Ollé Parent, a laborer born in Collbató who was a Barça fan, the situation had changed. FC Barcelona was a consolidated club with close to 300 socis and football’s fanbase was increasing slowly but steadily in the Barcelona society. This fanbase was still exclusively male (both the ones that played the sport and the ones that watched it) and if there were women (always members of the high society) present at the stadium on Industria street they just used the occasion to socialize between themselves and were disinterested in the game being played, according to reports at the time.
Edelmira wasn’t like this. When she started attending Barça games, with her husband and a friend, she felt something special. The two men were members of the club already and Edelmira decided that she should be one too, because not only did she understand the sport, but she vibrated to it and loved that splendid blaugrana team that had Forns, Wallace, Comamala and Peris, which won the Catalonia League, Spanish League, and the Pyrenees Cup in 1909-1910. She enjoyed those successes and got nervous with the games as every other Barça fanatic, to the point where on the Sundays when they would attend the games in the Ollé Calvetó home, they would only drink tea and not coffee. She would be especially nervous when watching Amechazurra, a cold-blooded defender who would bravely face opposing forwards in his own box.
In those days her presence at the stadium was surely a spectacle. A lot of times she was the only woman present and when Norbert, her only son, was born, she kept her fidelity to Barça and she would go to the stadium with the baby.
Without knowing of this fervent fan’s dream of being a member of the club, in October 1911, FC Barcelona approved new bylaws in which the membership was still forbidden to women. As a curiosity, when the text of the bylaws was printed there was an error, as it was literally written that club members could be “persons of over 14 years of age”. The inflexible Board reacted fast correcting the error: on November 16, the word “persons” would be replaced by “men”, like in the 1902 bylaws.
Edelmira Calvetó wasn’t aware of this significant anecdote and in the year 1912 she asked a friend to help her become a member of FC Barcelona. This friend was Barça player Francesc Armet “Pacan”, who had joined the club from Universitario under the auspices of an “illustrious feminist writer” who was a blaugrana fan and whose name is a mystery. Pacan said that he was sorry, but that the rule impeded women from becoming socis and that she was the first one to even ask such a thing. Faced with this negative reply from the club Calvetó didn’t give up and kept insisting time and time again. Her efforts were finally rewarded on January 1, 1913 when, under the presidency of Joan Gamper, Edelmira Calvet became a registered member of FC Barcelona at 28 years of age. So the apparently unmovable rule that all FC Barcelona socis must be males crumbled under the willpower of a small but combative woman. It was the year 1913 and Barça could already have women members when in Spain, women only had the right to vote in 1931. The second woman soci would be María Oriol, who was registered on September 16, 1913.
In 1921 new club bylaws were written in which it was only spoken of “socis” generically, without a distinction of sex. By that time women had already been able to become members for eight years thanks to the personal fight of Edelmira Calvetó.
A widower since 1937, Edelmira died in Barcelona on July 29, 1959 at the age of 75. It had been years since she had stopped going to games, but she was still a Barça soci. But she left the world in the most complete oblivion, as neither the club nor any publication of the time mentioned her passing. Unfortunately, the accomplishments of Edelmira Calvetó weren’t recognized during her life.
In 1959 the club’s Executive Board was still exclusively male and there were no women working for the club and the presence of women in various sporting sections of the club was very little. The day before Edelmira died there was an Assembly of club members with an all male attendance. There was still a lot of work to be done.
In 2011 Barça’s board created a work group dedicated to recovering the legacy of women in FC Barcelona’s history, named Group Edelmira Calvetó, claiming a role for women socis, boosting the limelight of women in the club and reflecting on the role of women in sports. It was named Group Edelmira Calvetó (GEC).
The first action that the GEC did was to fill the Presidential Box only with women Barça members in March 2011. They militated for the women’s team who had won the league to be integrated in the parade that the men’s team got at the end of the 2012-2013 season, they organized a day of growth through women’s sport in May 2013; they boosted the creation of a space dedicated to the women’s team in the FC Barcelona Museum and they created the Edelmira Calvetó award that is presented during the World Penyas Congress to the women who made significant contributions to the club’s image and values.
The current president of the group is Susana Monje, the club’s economic vice president, joined by Maria Teixidor, executive and vice secretary of the board, Rosa Maria Lleal and Sister Lucia Caram, patrons of the club’s Foundation, Roser Tiana, member of the Social Commission, Cristina Fàbregas, president of the Blaugrana Sallent Penya and secretary of the Blaugrana Penyas of Bages, Berguedà and Cerdanya Federation, and the journalist Helena García Melero.
According to the last census, at February 1st 2016, the quota of women has surpassed 25 percent for the first time ever, women being 26.28 percent of all socis. So out of 144,808 registered members, 38,053 are women.
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Source: FC Barcelona
WRITTEN BY: Diana Uzum
Barcelona fan since the days of Kluivert and Rivaldo. Been here for the good, the bad and the ugly.