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118 DJIONAT, Elena (1888–?) Teacher, journalist and activist of the Romanian feminist movement; founder and leader of the Organizaţia Femeilor Basarabene (Organization of Bessarabian Women), renamed Uniunea Femeilor Basarabene (League of Bessarabian Women) in 1933. Born in 1888 in the village of Bozieni, at that time part of the Russian Empire, Djionat pursued a career in medicine at the University of Odessa but only completed two years of study. She became a teacher and went on to become Principal at the Princess Elena Primary School in Chişhinău in 1919, after Bessarabia became part of Romania. She retained this position until 1935. In addition to pursuing her career as an educator of young girls, Djionat also became active in the feminist movement. She had her first encounter with feminist ideas in 1907 but up until 1919, her activities were focused more on Romanian nationalist cultural endeavors than on feminist ones. After the unification with Romania, Djionat and many other Bessarabian women activists—such as the prominent Elena Alistar (1873– 1955), the single female signatory of the act of unification with Romania in March 1918—had high expectations regarding women’s enfranchisement and civil rights. Yet the promise to extend these rights to women, spelt out in the act of unification, failed to materialize. It was only in 1928, under the National Peasant Party government, that women in Romania finally gained limited political rights in local elections. This moment gave fresh impetus to the revitalization of the feminist movement in Bessarabia. In November 1928, Djionat called a meeting that led to the establishment of the Organizaţia Femeilor Basarabene (Organization of Bessarabian Women), headed by Djionat herself. This new initiative was designed to counter the actions of Elena Alistar, who was less involved in local Bessarabian activism. Alistar had become affiliated with organizations in Bucharest such as Alexandrina Cantacuzino’s Societatea Ortodoxă Naţională a Femeilor Române (SONFR, National Orthodox Society of Romanian Women) and took Cantacuzino ’s disapproving view of women’s activism in, and membership of, traditional political parties. By 1933, Djionat had succeeded in generating several branches of the new Organization of Bessarabian Women, now renamed the League of Bessarabian Women, and 119 she held a major Congress. Some of the most important feminist organizations and personalities from Moldavia, Transylvania and Wallachia sent representatives and messages of solidarity, including Maria Baiulescu, Elena Meissner and Calypso Botez. The Congress formulated a motion to be submitted to King Carol II of Romania, requesting full political and civil equality for all citizens, regardless of sex, class, income or title, and the abolition of various restrictions on women’s education. The statement also carried a strong pacifist message. In the pursuit of her goals, Djionat joined the National Peasant Party and also published a short-lived feminist journal, Mişcarea feministă (The feminist movement), which she personally financed from her meager teacher’s salary. As Djionat’s efforts came into conflict with those of Alistar, the small Bessarabian feminist movement found itself split along lines drawn up in Bucharest, to the detriment of the local concerns of women activists. Elena Djionat’s activities after 1936 remain unknown. Maria Bucur Indiana University SOURCES (B) Alistar, Elena. “Mişcarea femenistă din Basarabia. Începuturi şi realizări. Spre un viitor mai frumos” (The feminist movement in Bessarabia. Beginnings and accomplishments. Towards a more beautiful future). Mişcarea femenistă (The feminist movement) 1, no. 1 (1933): 2. (B) “Congresul Ligei femeii basarabene” (The Congress of the Bessarabian Woman’s League). Mişcarea femenistă 1, no. 2 (1933): 1. (E) Colesnic, Iurie ed. Femei din Moldova. Enciclopedie (Women from Moldova. Encyclopedia ). Chişinău: Museum, 2000. (E) Cosma, Ghizela. Femeile şi politica în România. Evoluţia dreptului de vot în perioada interbelic ă (Women and politics in Romania. The evolution of suffrage rights in the interwar period ). Cluj: Presa Universitară Clujeană, 2002. ...


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