Isabel de Palencia, born Isabel Oyarzábal Smith, was born in Spain to a Scottish mother and a Spanish father of Basque origin. She began working as a Spanish language teacher in England and originally wanted a career as an actress. She met Ceferino Palencia, a dramatist, who cast her in his play Pepita Tudó. The couple were married in 1909. With her friend Raimunda Avecilla and her sister Ana Oyarzábal, Isabel co-founded and edited the first women's political magazine in Spain, La Dama, for which she was the principal writer. She also was a pioneering female journalist for Spanish and British newspapers. She was active in the Socialist Workers Party and the women's movement in Spain. In the 1930s, she became a diplomatic envoy and was the first woman to serve as a Spanish ambassador. She remained faithful to the Republic during the Spanish Civil War, and at its conclusion was forced into exile in Mexico. There she made a living as a writer, particularly of children's stories. She published two volumes of autobiography, I Must Have Liberty (1940) and Smouldering Freedom (1945).