restricted access BORTKEVIČIENE˙, Felicija (1873-1945)
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70 BORTKEVIČIENĖ, Felicija (1873–1945) Lithuanian journalist, public activist. Chairwoman in the 1920s of the liberal Lietuvos moteru ˛ sąjunga (Lithuanian Women’s Union ); member of the Lietuvos moteru ˛ globos komitetas (Lithuanian Women’s Wardship Committee); Board Member of the Lietuvos moteru ˛, baigusiu ˛ aukštąj˛ i mokslą sąjunga (Association of Lithuanian Women with University Education); Chairwoman of the association Žiburėlis (Light). Felicija Bortkevičienė was born Felicija Povickaitė on 1 September 1873 on the Linkaučiai Estate in Panevėžys County (in the district of Krekenava), into a noble family. Her parents, evicted from the estate by the Russian government for their part in the rebellion of 1863, moved to Ukmergė city. Progressive Polish and Russian intellectuals would often gather in the Povickiai house. Felicija’s mother, Antanina-Ona Liutkevičienė-Povickiene ̇ (1850–1922), and father, Povickis (personal data unknown), had two daughters and a son. Antanina-Ona Povickienė spoke Polish but passed her knowledge of the Lithuanian language not only to her own children, but also the children of estate workers. From 1883 to 1889, Felicija Povickaitė studied at Kaunas Girls’ Gymnasium, from which she was expelled during her sixth grade for anti-Russian ideas. Later, she graduated from Vilnius Girls’ Gymnasium and in 1890, attended illegal courses in history and French at the Skrajojantis arba Bobiškasis Universitetas (Flying University) in Warsaw. When the courses were closed in 1891, Felicija Povickaitė returned to her parents in Lithuania (to Ukmergė). She worked as a schoolteacher and later in a bank while studying Lithuanian. In 1899, Felicija Povickaitė married Jonas Bortkevičius (1871–1906), an engineer. She assumed his family name, becoming Bortkevičienė (the Lithuanian ending -ienė indicates marital status and Mrs Bortkevičienė was known in all her spheres of activity as simply Bortkevičienė). They lived in Vilnius and joined the national movement in 1900, as well as participating in the activities and meetings of an intellectual Lithuanian club that later acquired the name of ‘The Twelve Apostles.’ Bortkevičienė was the first and only woman to participate in all the meetings of this club. Though her Lithuanian was weak, she participated in the national movement and organized the 71 distribution of banned journals such as Varpas (Bell) and U kininkas (Farmer) in Vilnius and its district. From 1903, Bortkevičienė was actively involved in the work of Žiburėlis (Light), a secular association that supported gifted male and female Lithuanian students in their studies abroad. Up until 1905, the Bortkevičienė home was a center for both Vilnius Lithuanian intellectuals and for the Lithuanian women’s movement. From 1904 to 1905, Lithuanian women activists gathered secretly there to discuss public and women’s issues, Bortkevi čienė herself encouraging women to learn Lithuanian and join the national movement. On 22–23 September 1905, the Lietuvos moteru ˛ susivienijimas (Lithuanian Women’s Association) was established at one such meeting of Lithuanian women and Felicija Bortkevičienė was elected to the Board of the new organization. The goals of the Lietuvos moteru ˛ susivienijimas were: autonomy for Lithuania within its ethnic boundaries; general, equal, secret and immediate parliamentary elections for the Seimas in Vilnius and equal rights for women and men. Felicija Bortkevičienė recalled the Revolution of 1905 with these words: “I participated in the revolutionary work of 1904, 1905 and 1906. Agitators needed support in obtaining literature, money, often even guns, as well as help facilitating internal communication” (Bortkevičienė “Autobiografija” 1.1). In 1902, Mrs Bortkevičienė joined the Lietuvos demokratu ˛ partija (Lithuanian Democrat Party) and became one of its leaders. On 17 October 1905, the Russian Tsar Nicholas II issued a manifesto on the activities of organizations and public meetings. The manifesto expounded on the basic laws of a future constitutional government and promised to summon a Duma (Parliament), without which state laws would not be validated. Two days later, Lithuanian intellectuals decided to summon a Lithuanian Congress (later named the Seimas or Parliament ) in Vilnius. Felicija was included into the organizing committee of the Congress. On 4–6 December 1905, during a meeting of the Great Seimas in Vilnius, the Lietuvos valstiečiu ˛ sąjunga (Lithuanian Peasants’ Union) was established with Felicija Bortkevi čienė as head of the Committee of Central Affairs. On Bortkevičienė’s initiative, the Lietuvos valstiečiu ˛ sąjunga proposed that the Seimas include an article proclaiming the total political equality of both sexes in a Seimas resolution on the autonomy of Lithuania. On 11 December 1905, the...