restricted access THEODOROPOULOU, Avra (born Drakopoulou) (1880–1963)
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569 THEODOROPOULOU, Avra (born Drakopoulou) (1880–1963) Leading figure of the Greek feminist movement; founder (1920) and President (1921–1936 and 1944–1958) of the Syndesmos gia ta Dikaiomata tis Gynaikas (League for Woman’s Rights), affiliated to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA); board member (1923–1926; 1926– 1935) of the IWSA and of its successor, the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship (IAWSEC); leading figure of the Little Entente of Women (LEW) (1923–1929) and LEW President (1925– 1927); President of the Panelladiki Omospondia Gynaikon, (POG, Panhellenic Women’s Federation) (1946–1947); musicologist and music critic; feminist writer; author of stage plays and short stories. Avra Drakopoulou was born on 3 November 1880 into a family with strong political and intellectual traditions. Her grandfather , Carolos Drakopoulos, was a well-known fighter in the 1821 Independence Revolution and her father, Aristomenis Drakopoulos, served as Consul General of Greece in Adrianople. No data exists regarding her mother, Eleni. Her sister, Theoni Drakopoulou (1881–1973), was a well-known poet who took the pen name of ‘Myrtiotissa’ (from ‘myrtle’). Her nephew was the famous actor George Papas. Avra Drakopoulou finished high school and learned French, English and German. In 1900, she graduated from the Athens Conservatoire. For her achievements as a pianist she was awarded the Andreas and Iphigeneia Syngros Silver Medal (1910) and appointed to teach pianoforte and music history at the Conservatoire. She remained there until 1919, going on to teach at the Hellenic Conservatoire (1919–1936) and completing her professional career at the National Conservatoire (1936–1957). She was a member of the Enosis Ellinon Theatrikon kai Mousikon Kritikon (Union of Greek Theater and Music Critics). In 1900, she met Spyros Theodoropoulos (1875–1961), a lawyer, politician, writer, member of the Venizelos governments, rapporteur on labor legislation and one-time President of the Etaireia Ellinon Logotechnon (EEL, Society of Greek Authors). They married in 1906, had no children and lived together until his death on 20 April 1961. In her letters written to Spyros Theodoropoulos during a difficult period of courtship , Avra Drakopoulou expressed anger at the authoritarian attitudes of her father 570 and his opposition to her relationship with Theodoropoulos, which she felt indicated the extent of Greek women’s oppression. This anger surfaces again in her first play, Tychin i thelisin (Chance or will), which was never staged, probably—as her correspondence suggests—because of the objections of her future husband: he believed that the work was too “personal,” “real” and “true” to be staged, defying the border line between the private and the public [Elliniko Logotechniko kai Istoriko Archeio (Greek Literary and Historical Archives), File I: Correspondence between Avra and Spyros, 1900–1906, Wednesday 15 August 1901]. Several years later, Avra Theodoropoulou wrote another play, Spithes pou svynoun (Sparks dying out), which was staged by the famous actress Marika Kotopouli in 1912. Theodoropoulou’s participation in theatrical life, cultivated by her family environment and reinforced by her marriage to Spyros Theodoropoulos and their literary milieu, was bound up with her ideas on female emancipation, particularly with her attempts to seek new modes of expression and socio-political intervention. Avra Theodoropoulou’s first socio-political public activity was during the Greek– Turkish War of 1897, when she volunteered her services as a nurse. In the climate of political euphoria which marked the first Venizelos administration (1910–1920)— during which period Spyros Theodoropoulos helped found (in 1911) the Ergatiko Kentro Athinas (Athens Workers’ Center)—Avra Theodoropoulou and other women were entrusted with setting up the Kyriako Scholeio Ergatrion (KSE, Sunday School for Working Women) in Athens (October 1911). What distinguished this school from similar institutions organized by the women’s movement was that it marked an unclear yet visible transition from education provided on a philanthropic basis, to education demanded as a right. The KSE ceased its operations in 1922. While active in the KSE, Theodoropoulou volunteered as a nurse in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 and was decorated with the following four medals: of the Hellenic Red Cross, of Queen Olga, of the Balkan War and of the Greek–Bulgarian War. Theodoropoulou’s activities in this period can be seen in the context of a general spirit of nationalism which had, since the late decades of the nineteenth century, directly linked the social position and vocation of women to the fulfillment of national destiny. Such activities form an important part of the history of women's struggle, redefining the traditional distinction...