Biography of Dolors Aleu i Riera (1857-1913)

Pediatrician and gynecologist Spanish, born in Barcelona on April 3, 1857 and died in his hometown on February 19, 1913. Pioneer in defense, in Spain, of women's access to the same superior instruction and occupational dignity of that enjoyed by the male population was one of the first three University of the country, and the first woman who earned a doctorate in medicine in Spain.

Born in a family of the Catalan Middle bourgeoisie (his father was a prosperous merchant who had reached some economic well-being since its peasant origins), the young Dolors soon showed a pronounced natural intelligence that allowed him to shine, with his brother in their primary and secondary education. In 1874, with seventeen years of age, decided to sit the examinations at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Barcelona, following the example of the also Catalan María Elena Maseras i Ribera, natural Vilaseca (Tarragona), who, three years earlier, had become, also on the faculty, the first Spanish University. To the existing legal vacuum, the Tarragona student had fought until an actual order issued in September 1871 allowed arise baccalaureate examinations prior to entry in the University.

Protected, therefore by this Royal Decree, Dolors Aleu i Riera enrolled at the aforementioned University of Barcelona, though during the course of 1874 - 1875 attended class at the University of Valencia. In the classrooms, with the brother that had been sharing studies since childhood, soon stood out as one of the brightest students in his class. Thus, in 1877, he/she was invited to participate, in an observer capacity, in the Foundation of the Academy of female surgical clinic, and two years later, successfully completed, the last course of his career, although difficulties presenting their case to a slow and anchored, administration yet, the misogynistic prejudices not allowed him to attend the final graduation test until 1882. To counter this suspicion that his brilliant academic career aroused in public bodies - and not a few voices private your environment-, Dolors Aleu closed his academic record with a magnificent score.

maría Elena Maseras i Ribera, its predecessor in College avatars, also obtained the degree of Bachelor in that year of 1882, despite having completed their studies much before Dolors Aleu. The delay with which transacted its call for consideration of the Council of public instruction degree forced the Tarraconensis to dedicate himself, while he/she was waiting, to study Magisterium, career that gave him time to conclude before it could access the long-awaited final test that would give it the title of a degree in medicine. However, this delay in public institutions forced the girl to give up defense of his thesis (as had been his first intention) to start to earn a living as a teacher.

Despite this painful example, Dolors Aleu i Riera is not discouraged and decided to undergo a questionable administrative process that hoped to get permission to defend a doctoral thesis under the same conditions as their male peers. After receiving a special permit authorizing it to enrol in doctoral studies, in the month of October, 1881 (i.e., when still not had is able to submit to the examination of grade that had shut down your Bachelor's degree) he/she entered the University of Madrid, in the company of the Lleida young Martina Castells i Ballespi, another illustrious pioneer in medical studies of women in Spain (not in vain was the daughtergranddaughter, great-granddaughter and sister of doctors). By means of a Royal Decree of March, 1882, both women authorized were to examine the degree of doctors, what the two did just a few months later: on October 6, 1882, Dolors Aleu i Riera presented a thesis entitled convenience to run for new ways the higienico-moral education of women; and, after three days, it was the Lleida Martina Castells which obtained the PhD degree with the defense of the thesis physical, moral and intellectual education to be given to women so that this can contribute to maximum extent to its perfection and of humanity.

Interestingly, Dolors Aleu and Martina Castells (since María Elena Maseras, as indicated above, did not permit that would authorize it to pursue the Ph.d.) were, for a long time, not only the first but also the only doctors of the Spanish academic panorama. This was due to the aforementioned Royal order of March, 1882 authorizing them to examine the grade had conceived and approved as an exception to the students who were already enrolled in the upper courses, to as supposed to a clear-cut prohibition of the incorporation of new students to university faculties.

As soon as he/she had obtained the title of doctor in medicine, Dolors Aleu opened his own private practice in Barcelona, where he/she had his two specialties (Pediatrics and Gynecology) for twenty-five years of intensive vocational and professional delivery (1882-1907). In the same year of its access to the PhD degree became the first woman who was part of the French society of hygiene (1882); However, Spanish medical associations and societies continued showing her the same misgivings that had showcased the Administration, so Dolors Aleu, still enjoying the same academic and legal prerogatives of his colleagues, was forced to fight hard during his professional career to be admitted in the collective and Spanish scientific and medical corporations.

And this despite the fact that, aside from the novelty of their case, their contributions to the knowledge of the medicine of his time were notable, as expected in a Ph.d. with one of the most brilliant academic records of their promotion. Already in 1877, when a few months still had to complete her undergraduate studies, he/she had begun to publish in journals some scientific articles of great interest such as the entitled "Escrofulide ulcerated severe generalized", which was released the same year between the pages of the journal medical independence; or "Clinical case of rheumatic arthritis", released a year later through this same publication. However, his latest contribution was the recasting of his thesis, published in 1884 under the title of the need to set on new path education higienico-moral of women, a truly "revolutionary" text in his time, because he/she dared to refute one of the commonly accepted not only by the common people, but also by the doctors and the intellectual class of his time: the mental inferiority of women.

Their fight for improving the physical and intellectual conditions in that unfolded the life of women in Spain manifested itself, too, in another of his most widespread works, published in 1884 under the title of advice to a mother. About the regime, cleaning, dress, sleep, exercise and entertainment for children, directed both to the progenitor and medical personnel attending to children (and, especially, midwives).


ERMINE, Mauro [ed.]. The emancipation of women in Spain (Madrid: Júcar, 1974).

CORBELLA, Jacint, and DOMENECH, Edelmira. "A prioritat questio: Helena Maseras, Dolors Aleu, Martina Castells", in proceedings of the I Congrès international d' history of medicine Catalana (Montpellier), 1970, vol. I, pp. 139-142.

ARROW GARCÍA, Consuelo. The first University in Spain (Madrid: Narcea, 1996).

IBERO CONSTANSO, Alba. "Aleu i Riera, Dolors", in women in the history of Spain (Madrid: planet, 2000), pp. 388-390.

MAGALLÓN PORTOLÉS, Carmen. Spanish pioneers in Sciences. Women in the National Institute of physics and chemistry (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1998).