restricted access KÄER-KINGISEPP, Elise (1901–1989)
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200 KÄER-KINGISEPP, Elise (1901–1989) Founder (1926) of the Eesti Akadeemiliste Naiste Ühing (EANÜ, Estonian Association of University Women); pharmacologist and physiologist; university lecturer; science historian. Elise Käer was born on 3 October 1901 in the vicinity of Tartu (in Metsak üla, Estonia) the first of the two daughters of farmers Gustav Käer (1861– 1932) and Liisa (born Rosin) Käer (1878–1977). [Elise’s sister Helene Käer (born 1906), married name Helene Sultson , is a musician living in Montreal, Canada.] The family moved to Tartu and Elise studied at the Second elementary school there and later, at the elite Girls’ Gymnasium (high school), named after A. S. Pushkin and established in 1899. In 1918, after German military forces had occupied Tartu, the Pushkin Gymnasium was evacuated to Russia. Most Russified students and professors of the Pushkin Gymnasium left Tartu and Elise continued her education at the Russian gymnasium of the Tartu Schoolmasters’ Society, finishing her studies in the spring of 1919. In the autumn of that year, she applied to the medical faculty of Tartu University. Since her diploma—issued by the Russian gymnasium— was not sufficient for enrollment at the university, Elise Käer was initially admitted as an auditor student, later passing additional exams in mathematics, physics and Latin. In May 1920, she enrolled as a fully qualified student in medicine at the University of Tartu. Inclined towards research, her work on the curative properties of Estonian mud attracted the attention of medical scientists and was published in the journal Eesti Arst (Estonian doctor), which had thus far only published studies by male doctors. Elise Käer graduated from Tartu University as a physician in 1924. At the end of this year, inspired by her interest in theoretical medicine, she decided to continue her studies at the university’s Department of Chemistry of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences while teaching at the Girls’ Gymnasium and the Ninth elementary school in Tartu. During the summer months, she applied her theoretical knowledge practically, as a doctor on duty at the mud bath and mud cure center in the town of Haapsalu. In 1923, she joined the Eesti Naisüliõpilaste Selts (Society of Estonian Women Students , founded in 1911) and in September 1924, was elected to its Board as Chair of 201 the committee for foreign relations. Elise Käer mastered German, Russian, English and French; these skills not only gave her an advantage when communicating with students’ organizations from various European universities, but resulted in Käer becoming a representative of Tartu University to a number of international students’ forums in Riga, Kaunas (Kovno), Helsinki and Warsaw. She was a member of the Central Bureau of the Eesti, Läti, Leedu ja Soome Üliõpilasliit, Keskbüroo (SELL, Association of Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Finnish Students), an organization of students from the Baltic countries that existed from 1923 to 1939, and (after 1926) joined the Board of the Confédération Internationale des Étudiants (CIE, International Students Confederation). Elise Käer was on the Editorial Board of the Tartu students’ Üliõpilasleht (Student newspaper) and, thanks to her, articles addressing issues relevant to female students were also published. It was Käer who, during a 1925 meeting of the Eesti Naisüliõpilaste Selts, proposed setting up an association of university women. The founding meeting of the Eesti Akadeemiliste Naiste Ühing (EANÜ, Estonian Association of University Women) took place in Tartu on 1–2 May 1926. Elise Käer read out the statutes of EANÜ and raised the possibility of EANÜ joining the International Federation of University Women (established in 1919). Käer was among the seven members elected to the EANÜ Board and became the first EANÜ Vice-Chairwoman (1925–1936), Chairwoman of its medical committee (1936–1940) and the organization’s main coordinator . In 1927, the Üliõpilasleht initiated a discussion about the university education of women. Käer’s popularity as a student leader led to the appearance of a number of friendly cartoons and other doggerel in the Üliõpilasleht. In 1931, Elise Käer married Georg Kingisepp (1898–1974) who, after having graduated from Heidelberg University, had been working in Germany for a couple of years before coming to work as an assistant at the Institute of Pharmacology at Tartu University. In 1927, Georg Kingisepp obtained his M.D. degree and in 1938, was nominated for a professorship. Elise Käer-Kingisepp, who defended her M...