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99 ÇOBA, Shaqe (Marie) (1875–1954) The first woman intellectual of the city of Shkodra (Shkoder in Albanian); founder (in Shkodra, 1920) of the organization Gruaja Shqiptare (The Albanian Woman); activist of the women’s and national independence movements. Shaqe (Marie) Çoba was born in Shkodra in 1875 to the distinguished Shiroka family, traditionally active in the social life of the city. Her father’s name was Zef Shiroka. She had one brother, Loro, and one sister whose name, like that of her mother, is unknown. Shaqe Shiroka ’s nephews and grandchildren— namely Filip Shiroka and his son Angjelini (an architect in Beirut), as well as Ejlli, Zefi, Dr. Frederiku, Emili and Tonini Shiroka—became well known for their social activities. Shaqe Shiroka’s intelligence was noted from an early age. She attended the elementary school in Shkodra, an ancient town in northern Albania, and completed middle school at an Austrian convent school in Zagreb, where she studied Italian, German and Serbo-Croat. In 1904, she went to Italy to continue her studies (in Venice). On the way, she met Ndoc Çoba (1865–8 March 1945), who was impressed by Shiroka’s intelligence and later asked her family for her hand in marriage. In the Çoba family, Shaqe found a stimulating intellectual environment and a home for her national ideas. Ndoc Çoba was an affirmed Albanian nationalist and involved in a great number of cultural and political projects. The couple had one son, Karlo Çoba (November 1907–27 January 1968). On 3 August 1920, Shaqe Çoba founded Gruaja Shqiptare (The Albanian Woman), for upper-class women of Shkodra interested in issues of emancipation. Shaqe Çoba led the organization and Habibe Bekteshi was Honorary Chair; Paulina Leka was secretary and Albina Ashiku, bookkeeper. Gruaja Shqiptare was formed principally to raise and distribute funds on behalf of the National Army during the 1920 Koplik war (against Yugoslav forces pushing for the annexation of Albanian territories). The program of Gruaja Shqiptare stated that “our aim has always been […] to serve our Patria, which our ancestors have preserved from the countless invasions of enemies.” Members of Gruaja Shqiptare collected money and other donations from families in Shkodra, which they then distributed among soldiers, volunteers and poor families 100 (e.g. the families of those lost in the war). Those women who served Gruaja Shqiptare as volunteers wore a strap of white cloth on their arms with the initials “G Sh” in red letters. Rich documentation, which has been well preserved by the Çoba family, sheds light on the diverse activities of these women in this period. In order to publicize the work of Gruaja Shqiptare, the organization also ran a magazine, Gruaja Shqiptare (The Albanian woman), from November 1920 to July 1921. The magazine informed readers about donations—including the exact sums and names of donors—and published articles on the problems of ‘the Albanian housewife.’ Gruaja Shqiptare strove to show ways in which Albanian women might function ‘properly’ in their society and many articles discussed women’s ‘rights’ and ‘duties.’ Articles such as “Zakonet Tona” (Our customs) called for the “ladies of Shkodra” to lead their “co-citizen sisters towards development” and rid the country “of those undesirable customs which we have inherited from our ancestors, but which today we have no reason to keep in the face of the ray of civilization that has begun to flame among us” (Gruaja Shqiptare, no. 2). In articles such as “Detyrat e nanes” (Mother’s duties), mothers were instructed how best to educate their children: parents were to emulate the moral and national ideal; to instill in their children a love of work; to send girls to school and set them a good and virtuous example. For the first time in Albanian history , women’s opinions on their own rights, education and culture had acquired a public forum through the pages of Gruaja Shqiptare; for the first time, their thoughts on a new moral awareness and a new understanding of modern Albanian womanhood could be heard. “We should convince ourselves that woman is ... the spirit of human society and the center of the family” (Gruaja Shqiptare, no. 6). “’The Albanian Woman’ must be strong and prosper … not only in Shkodra but in all regions of Albania , if only to tell the civilized world [sic] that even ‘The Albanian Woman’ knows how to act, knows how to love and honor her patria” (Gruaja Shqiptare, no. 9). The magazine closed for financial reasons within a year. According...


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