Francesc Ferrer sticker
Francesc Ferrer, “!Chicos apunten bien – viva la escuela moderna!”
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He was born in Alella (a small town near Barcelona) to Roman Catholic parents. He was sent to work on a Barcelona firm at the age of 15. The owner of the firm was an anti-cleric and is said to have had a great influence on Ferrer. A follower of Spanish republican leader Manuel Ruiz Zorrilla, Ferrer was exiled to Pariswith his wife and children in 1885. Divorcing in 1899, he remarried a wealthy Parisian teacher shortly thereafter.
In 1901 he returned to Spain and opened the Escuela Moderna (The Modern School) to teach middle-class children (then) radical social values. In 1906 he was arrested on suspicion of involvement with the anarchist Mateu Morral‘s attack on King Alfonso XIII and released uncharged over a year later. His school failed and closed while he was incarcerated.
Early in the summer of 1908, after his release from jail, he wrote the story of the Modern School. The work was entitled The Origins and Ideals of the Modern School and was translated into English and published by the Knickerbocker Press in 1913.
Following the declaration of martial law in 1909 during the Tragic Week, he was arrested and, having been found guilty after a lengthy trial, executed by firing squad at Montjuich Fortress in Barcelona on 13 October.
Shortly after his execution, numerous supporters of Ferrer’s ideas in the United States of America formed what were called Modern Schools, or Ferrer Schools, modeled after la Escuela Moderna. The first and most notable Modern School was formed in New York City in 1911, and then later a community was founded around a school, known as the Ferrer Colony and Modern School.
In Anarchism and Other Essays, Emma Goldman called Francesc Ferrer a “rebel” and said that “his spirit would rise in just indignation against the iron régime of his country…”. When Goldman is depicted in E. L. Doctorow‘s historical fiction Ragtime, she calls on people to support Ferrer.