restricted access IVANOVA, Dimitrana (1881–1960)
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182 IVANOVA, Dimitrana (1881–1960) Teacher, journalist, and editor; leader (from 1926 to 1944) and ideologist of the feminist Bulgarski Zhenski Sujuz (Bulgarian Women’s Union); member of the Board of the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship (1935–1940). Dimitrana Ivanova (born Petrova) was born on 1 February 1881 into a middleclass family in the town of Rousse, a prosperous commercial and business center with a cosmopolitan outlook located on the river Danube. Her parents, the craftsman and trader Petur Drumev and Stanka pop Todorova (about whom nothing further is known), had three children. After graduating from the girls’ high school in Rousse in 1896, Dimitrana studied philosophy at the University of Zurich, Switzerland (Sofia University, the only Bulgarian university at the time, did not accept women). With only the final examination to complete, she had to return to Bulgaria in 1900 due to family misfortunes. She became a teacher and taught at several institutions before managing to transfer in 1906 to her native town of Rousse (where her parents had been living alone since the deaths of her two brothers). In 1914 she married Doncho Ivanov (1877–1961), then a secretary of the Chamber for Trade and Industry, assuming his family name. She continued to teach at the girls’ high school in Rousse until 1916, when her family moved to the capital Sofia. Well educated and with a keen sensitivity to sexual inequality, having more than once encountered discrimination because of her sex, her involvement in the women’s movement seems only logical. From 1908 to 1911 Dimitrana Petrova chaired the women’s association Dobrodetel (Virtue) in Rousse. She took part in the congress of the Bulgarian Women’s Union in 1911, where the constitutional provisions for women’s voting rights were debated, and became a member of the special committee appointed by the congress to study the electoral rights of women from a legal perspective. In addition, she engaged in wider public and cultural activities, showing a deep involvement with the problems of teachers and women. From 1905 onwards she contributed regularly to the newspaper Uchitelska probuda (Teachers’ awakening) and Zhenski glas (Women’s voice), the organ of the Bulgarian Women’s 183 Union. She also wrote for the professional journals Uchitel (Teacher) and Uchilishten pregled (School review), the official journal of the Ministry of Education. Dimitrana Petrova worked as a nurse during the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913. Though she gave birth to her three children in Sofia during World War One (in 1916, 1917, and 1918), she nevertheless managed to participate in the activities of the women’s educational society Suznanie (Conscience). She also briefly worked as an under-secretary in the Social Care Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Public Health. After World War One, Ivanova devoted herself entirely to social and political activism . From September 1920 until 1944 she was editor-in-chief of Zhenski glas and wrote articles for almost every issue. Her uncompromising character, self-sacrifice and firm espousal of the women’s cause elevated her to the highest position in the socalled ‘bourgeois’ women’s movement. From 1926, until the communist takeover in September 1944, she was chairwoman of the Bulgarian Women’s Union, the largest and best-known feminist organization in the country. In the early 1920s—while being married with three young children—she decided that an education in law would enable her to do more for the women’s cause. She tried to enroll at the Law Faculty of Sofia University but was rejected on the grounds that she “did not have a complete secondary education” (all high schools in Bulgaria by then had eight grades, while she had only had to complete six) (National Library “Cyril and Method,” Bulgarian Historical Archive, collection No. 584, a. e. 1, l. 65). It was then, as she wrote in her autobiography , that “the persuasion became deeply seated within me that I should fight injustices against women and against formalism” (National Library “Cyril and Method,” Bulgarian Historical Archive, collection no. 584, a. e. 1, l. 68). After ‘completing’ her eightyear high school education by taking the necessary final exams (at the same high schools where she had been teaching for sixteen years), Ivanova enrolled in the Law Faculty and graduated in 1927. She then founded (1928), and for two years edited, the journal Zhenata (The woman), which specialized in legal aspects of women’s subordinate status. Under Dimitrana Ivanova’s leadership, the Bulgarian suffragists achieved...


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