restricted access KVEDER, Zofka (first married name, Kveder-Jelovšek; second married name, Kveder-Demetrović) (1878–1926)
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282 KVEDER, Zofka (first married name, Kveder-Jelovšek; second married name, Kveder-Demetrović) (1878–1926) Slovene writer, journalist, editor and feminist . Zofka Kveder was born on 22 April 1878 in Ljubljana (Slovenia), the first child of assistant railway conductor Janez Kveder (1846–1908) and Neža Kveder, born Legat (1851–1915). She spent her childhood in the country after her father— restless by nature and prone to changing jobs—decided to leave Ljubljana. Two sons were later born to the Kveders: Alojzij (1882–1932) and Viktor (1884–1939). After Zofka had finished her four-year village elementary schooling (in 1888), her father sent her to Ljubljana to a convent school. She stayed there until she was fifteen, when she returned to her parents in the small village of Retje in southern Slovenia. By that time, her father had taken to drinking and Zofka could not bear to be at home. Barely sixteen, she fled to Kočevje, the nearest large town, where she worked as a secretary in a landsurveyor’s office. After several months she returned home, but the family did not welcome her. Her father’s alcoholism had driven her mother to religious fanaticism and Zofka, who resented any form of religiosity after having been schooled by nuns, drifted apart from her. Both her parents often abused her physically and she decided to break away from home for good. In August 1897, Zofka Kveder went to Ljubljana and found a job in a law practice copying out files. In the late 1890s, she began to write and in the beginning of 1898, sent some of her texts to five newspapers and magazines. The magazine Slovenka (Slovene woman, 1897–1902) was the first Slovene magazine for women and the first to publish Kveder’s short stories. In the years to come, Kveder also published many articles in which she touched upon numerous issues affecting women, including the situation of women wage earners and women’s university education. In January 1899, she moved to Trieste, where she worked in the Slovenka editorial office. Late nineteenth -century Trieste was a vibrant port but Kveder felt she could not settle there and 283 longed to study. She decided to go to Switzerland, since she had not yet graduated from secondary school. After a successful interview with the rector, she was able to enrol at Bern University in October 1899. Up until then she had been earning her own living but she soon realized that in Switzerland it was impossible to survive (let alone study) on what money she made writing literary works, articles and feuilletons (many of the latter she wrote in German). After a while, she dropped out of university. During Kveder’s stay in Switzerland, she wrote an interesting short story, “Študentke” (Women students, 1899), in which she vividly depicted the lives of Russian and Bulgarian students whose company she had enjoyed. In January 1900, she left Switzerland and headed for Munich. Newspapers and magazines paid even less for her articles there than in Switzerland and so, after a month, she went to Prague (Bohemia), where she met her future fiancé Vladimir Jelovšek (1879–1931), a Croatian student of medicine and regarded by some to be a rather decadent poet. In the spring of 1900, she published her literary debut, a book of stories called Misterij žene (The mystery of woman). This work irritated Slovene literary critics because of its preoccupation with specifically female experiences of exploitation, violence and pain. In 1901, three short stories from the collection were published by the Viennese magazine Dokumente der Frauen (Documents of women). As a result of Misterij žene and other articles published in Slovene magazines and newspapers, Zofka Kveder became a central figure in the emerging Slovene women’s movement. She differed from other Slovene feminists of the time because of her network of contacts with women from various countries of Central and Southeastern Europe, including the Austrian feminists Martha Tausk and Marie Lang and the Czech politician, editor and feminist Karla Máchová. It is therefore unsurprising that the board of the Splošno slovensko žensko društvo (General Slovene Women’s Association ) asked her to deliver a lecture in Ljubljana (on 29 September 1901) to mark the founding of the organization. The lecture, entitled “Ženska v družini in družbi” (Woman in the family and society), addressed the need for women’s education and made arguments in favor of women’s equal pay with men for equal...