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1 Introduction I. Why this book? This book describes the lives, works and aspirations of more than 150 women and men who were active in, or part of, women’s movements and feminisms in 22 countries in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe. In doing so, it challenges the widely held belief that there was no feminism in this part of Europe. Taken together, the biographical portraits not only show that feminists (we will come back to this term) existed here, but also that they were widespread and diverse, and included Romanian princesses, Serbian philosophers and peasants, Latvian and Slovakian novelists , Albanian teachers, Hungarian Christian social workers and activists of the Catholic women’s movement, Austrian factory workers, Bulgarian feminist scientists and socialist feminists, Russian radicals, philanthropists, militant suffragists and Bolshevik activists, prominent writers and philosophers of the Ottoman era, as well as Turkish republican leftist political activists and nationalists, internationally recognized Greek feminist leaders, an Estonian pharmacologist and science historian, a Slovenian ‘literary feminist,’ a Czech avant-garde painter, a Ukrainian feminist scholar and Polish and Czech Senate Members. There were feminists of liberal persuasion, Social Democrats, communists, partisans, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, members of the Orthodox Church and atheists; in sum women, and some men, from all walks of life. Their stories together constitute a rich tapestry of feminist activity. The belief that there was no feminism in this part of Europe (probably with the exception of Russia, where the history of women’s movements has been well documented )1 is not limited to ‘ordinary people,’ but is shared by academics as well. Such a fine historian as Eric Hobsbawm wrote only a few years ago with respect to the period around 1900 that “In the condition of the great majority of the world’s women, those who lived in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the peasant societies of southern and eastern Europe, or indeed in most agrarian societies, there was as yet no change whatever.”2 It is true that supporters of women’s movements and feminist causes in those regions formed a relatively small part of the population in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—perhaps smaller than in some of the (more industrialized) countries of Western Europe in the same period. Yet, rather than a priori assuming that there was no change, it may be more constructive for historians to pay close attention to the undoubted presence and influence of women’s activities and protests, 2 trying to understand in which contexts they developed and how. Women’s activities in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe (CESEE) produced (as in ‘the West’) “a small but unprecedented number of women who were active” and “distinguished, in fields previously confined entirely to men”3 : dynamic personalities such as Callirhoe Parren (Greece), Elena Ghica/Dora d’Istria (a Romanian of Albanian descent), Fatma Aliye and Halide Edib Adıvar (Turkey), Milica Ninković (Serbia), Vela Blagoeva and Anna Karima (Bulgaria), the Croatian Dragojla Jarnević, Bosnians Stoja Kašiković and Staka Skenderova, and many, many others. Western feminist historians may not have been so blunt as Hobsbawm, but until recently their work has been generally limited to the Western European continent (or even to a limited number of countries there: namely England, Germany and France). Karen Offen, in her important book European Feminisms 1700–1950 (2000), has clearly made all possible efforts to include data about Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe, but was restricted by the piecemeal and limited information available for most countries of these regions.4 The history of women’s movements in this part of Europe by and large has either not been researched or published only in local languages (the books in Romanian by Ştefania Mihăilescu and Ghizela Cosma are good examples of the latter),5 without a bridge to the mainly Anglophone world of international scholarship. Of course there are differences in this respect between the various countries, and projects are underway, but it is safe to say that the history of women’s movements and feminisms is largely unwritten and that most recent publications deal with the contemporary history of women’s movements/feminisms after 1989.6 The recent (2004) volume Women’s Emancipation Movements in the Nineteenth Century: A European Perspective, edited by Sylvia Paletschek and Bianka Pietrow-Ennker, does include some countries from the Eastern half of the European continent, but only a handful (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and Greece);7 our book, with its focus on 22 countries...


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