restricted access KÁNYA (Kanya), Emilia; Mrs Mór Szegfi (1830–1905)
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213 KÁNYA (Kanya), Emilia; Mrs Mór Szegfi (1830–1905) Hungarian writer, publicist and translator; first female editor in the Austro-Hungarian Empire; advocate of the women’s cause. Pen-name: ‘Emilia.’ Emilia Kánya was born on 10 November 1830 into a highly educated middleclass family in Pest-Ofen, Hungary. Little is known about her family background and early years. Her mother was Zsuzsanna Buro (no data); her father, Pál Kánya (1794–1876), was a teacher, later the director of a local Protestant secondary school and parish notary. Emilia received the same education as her father’s students and was taught French, English, music and drawing. In 1847, after an unhappy experience in love at the age of seventeen, she married Gottfried Feldinger, the son of a rich businessman. The couple moved to Temesvár (today Timisoara, Romania). From 1851, they published a journal in German entitled Euphrosine. Mrs Feldinger had an active role in editing the journal, partially due to her husband’s blindness, and in this way entered contemporary circles of men of letters, making connections which would prove invaluable to her editorial activity later on. The marriage ended in divorce in 1857 and she moved to Pest to her father’s residence. In 1857, to support herself and her children, Emilia Kánya (no longer using her former husband’s name) began publishing short stories, translations and biographies. She soon became an acknowledged writer and published in journals such as Napkelet (Sunrise), Hölgyfutár (Women’s courier), Szépirodalmi Közlöny (Literary gazette) and Divatcsarnok (Hall of fashion) under her pen-name ‘Emilia.’ Her short stories were later collected in edited volumes and she also wrote etiquette books for girls. In 1860, she married Mór Szegfi (1825–1896), a well-educated Jewish literary man and journalist without means. From her two marriages she had eight children, almost all of whom went on to receive higher education. Although not the first woman in pre-1867 Hungary who intended to establish a journal, ‘Emilia’ was the first to succeed in doing so. Reportedly, this was a suggestion Emilia Kánya, 1847. Photograph of a painting attributed to Miklós Barabás (1810–1898). 214 made by the male editor of a popular weekly and she took up the idea. In October 1860, after a long and arduous struggle with the authorities, she finally received permission to launch Családi Kör (Family circle), a weekly journal that ran until 1880. The journal Családi Kör published many articles by ‘Emilia’ herself, as well as the writings of young literary talents and amateurs; it included biographies with woodengraved portraits, journalistic pieces, short stories, events listings, entertainment, poems, news, needlework and dressmaking patterns, housekeeping and cooking. ‘Emilia’ often performed services for rural subscribers such as shopping (for example once, at the request of a regular woman reader, she bought and shipped three dresses with the same pattern for a special occasion). In addition to editing the journal (with the help of her husband as co-editor), Mrs Mór Szegfi born Kánya also compiled volumes of her short stories, published novels and created a series entitled Magyar Hölgyek Könyvtára (Library of Hungarian Ladies ), consisting of more than one hundred volumes. The series started from 1867 with a novel of her own entitled Búvirágok (Flowers of sadness, 1867). In the years 1861, 1862, 1863 and 1864, she edited the Magyar Nők Évkönyve (Hungarian Women Yearbook), which contained biographies of famous Hungarian women from the past and was designed to contribute to the patriotic education of Hungarian women. She also translated books for girls. The activities of this female writer and editor in the 1860s stirred sometimes hostile debates between her and famous literary male figures over the role of women in society and in literary life. As the editor of Családi Kör, ‘Emilia’ believed women could perform an important role in society, animating the public sphere and especially the field of literature, which she regarded as a main vehicle for conveying patriotic ideas. Her approach should be understood in the political context of the pre-1867 neoabsolutist era, when the extended family circle served as an autonomous public sphere for the preservation of Hungarian national values. In this milieu, she advocated the rights of women to education and to an independent living from their intellectual work, as well as the general advancement of women...


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