I have been asked several times if I was the first woman guitar maker, and at first, I thought I was. Of course, it was known that in the guitar workshops it was quite normal for there to be women who varnished with gomalaca with a stump, even sometimes the wives of some guitar makers, as may have happened in the workshop of my ancestors. But when I entered my father’s workshop, in the 1970s, we had no news of any case of women guitar makers, because it was seen as something very strange for a woman to practice a trade that was considered a man’s job.
Until I learned of the existence of Concepción González, the daughter of Francisco González, who was the teacher of my great-grandfather José Ramírez I. Of course, I cannot affirm that she was the first woman guitar maker, but apparently, she was the first to be recognised in Spain, as she was registered as such in 1882, the same year in which my great-grandfather became independent, although her teacher had died in 1879.
However, the fact that Concepción González never put her name on her guitars (on the labels and in the workshop it appeared: “Viuda e Hijos de González”, firstly, and later “Hijos de González”), clearly reflects the hidden role of women in this trade, as in so many others in that society.
A curiosity that caught my attention was that Concepción was born in 1855, exactly a century before me. I like to share this coincidence with her and the fact that she learned this trade from her father, as I did with mine. And I suppose that we also share that we grew up in a house where the guitar was a member of the family, as it was always present, we talked about guitars, guitarists visited us… I loved going to the workshop and letting myself be impregnated by that wonderful smell of wood and hot glue, which are the perfumes of my childhood.
It was always assumed that my brother would carry on the family tradition, and it was also assumed that I would not. However, I had a different opinion. The truth is that when I told my father that I wanted to learn to make guitars, he said: “very well, go to the workshop, we’ll assign you a bench and start making guitars“. And so I did.
My brother was also my teacher, not only in guitar making but in learning everything related to our family business. So, when he passed away, I was able to take the reins alone and continue, despite the fact that some guitar makers and guitar manufacturers in Spain were saying that the Casa Ramírez had come to an end. I even had offers to buy the company, which was never in my plans. Fortunately, I had the support of my distributors, lifelong customers, and lovers of our guitars… and that always cheers me up. But with or without that, I would have continued, because I love a challenge.
Currently, my niece and nephew, Cristina and José Enrique are in the front line running the workshop with me in the rearguard. Enrique is an accomplished guitar maker and is teaching the trade to his sister Cristina, a budding guitar maker who combines her apprenticeship with the multiple tasks she carries in this business.
It only remains for me to say that there are several women building guitars today, as there were in the past, that I hope that more women will choose this beautiful path of guitar making and that it is not about being the first, but about being what you want to be.
Article written by Amalia Ramírez