María de la Salud Bernaldo de Quirós y Bustillo was the first Spanish woman to obtain a pilot’s license and to take advantage of the Divorce Law of the Republic.
She came from an aristocratic family and received a good education, but was attracted to aviation at a young age. She was married twice, the first marriage being a real tragedy (she lost her husband and 2 children). During her second marriage, thanks to her friendships in aviation circles, she decided to follow her vocation and started training.
When María enrolled in the Spanish Royal Air Club, she was the only woman out of eighteen students. Her instructor claimed that women lacked the spirit of sacrifice necessary for flying, but he considered María an exceptional student. By the time she received her license, she had already separated from her husband. She was also one of the first women to take advantage of the Divorce Law of the second Republic. Once she had the license, she started touring the airfields and participating in various events and festivals. Maria became very famous, being honoured in all the places she passed through. In interviews, she emphasized that she was a “modern woman”. She made statements calling on the government to support women’s access to aviation and extolling women´s ability to “do more than just embroider.” Despite her accomplishments, Maria had to take most of the credit for her physique: “The most beautiful eyes aviation has …” Because of her gender, she was denied the title of the honorary pilot of the army, which deprived her of military status. Due to the misogynistic mentality of the time, the Spanish Royal Air Club also refused to admit her as a member, depriving her of the rights and privileges of membership. Her aviation career was very short. After making a few flights for the rebels at the beginning of the Civil War, she soon ceased flying completely and was never seen in public again. Maria de Quirós enjoyed the liberation of women by the Republic, but unfortunately the dictatorship that followed forced her back into the domestic sphere, like most Spanish women of the time.