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311 MAŠIOTIENĖ, Ona (1883–1949) Lithuanian feminist, social worker and teacher; founder and leader (1929–1934) of the Lietuvos moteru ˛ taryba (Lithuanian Council of Women); participant in the meeting of the Executive Committee of the International Council of Women (London, 1929). Ona Mašiotienė born Ona Brazauskaite ̇ (or Brzezowska; Brazauskaitė is the Lithuanian version of the latter and this is how she always referred to herself) was born on 29 January 1883, into a noble family from Šlavėnai (in the parish of Anykščiai, today northern Lithuania), one of eight children. Her father, Gustaw Brzezowski (1841–1906), was involved in the 1863 Uprising against Russian rule, wounded and later imprisoned. In prison, he met Jadwiga Michailowska (1845–1915), the daughter of one of his inmates, Enrik Michailowski, who had been sentenced to death. The young woman was to become his wife and the mother of Ona. At the couple’s home an atmosphere of Lithuanian patriotism prevailed, despite their speaking Polish. The father distributed Lithuanian books (an activity banned by the Russian occupiers) and later became an outspoken advocate of Lithuanian–Polish equality and unity in one state. While Ona’s brothers retained a Polish identity, some of her sisters turned towards a Lithuanian cultural identity. Ona found this national division within her family painful. She graduated with distinction from the Kaunas Girls’ High School in 1900 (?) but considered this education insufficient, since she had hoped to become a qualified schoolteacher. Moving to Moscow, she enrolled in higher education courses in the natural sciences. Though her parents were well off, it was Olga’s aunt who financially supported her studies—her parents adopting a fairly typical (negative) attitude towards girls’ higher education. During her studies, Ona Brazauskait˙e became interested in social work and helped establish the Lithuanian Student Society in Moscow, an organization of male and female members. She also became interested in Western European women’s movements, particularly those based in England, and began advocating equal rights for women. On 22 and 23 September 1905, she became a founder member of the Lietuvos moteru˛ susivienijimas (Lithuanian Women’s Association), 312 the first women’s organization in Lithuania. She was elected as a delegate to what must have been the second Congress of the Soiuz ravnopraviia zhenshchin (Women’s Equal Rights Union; also known as the All-Russian Union for Women’s Equality). On 4 and 5 December 1905, Ona Brazauskait˙e participated in the Lithuanian Great Seimas in Vilnius: the first Lithuanian National Congress. The participation of women in the congress demonstrated women’s interest and active involvement in national affairs. While studying in Moscow, Ona Brazauskaitė met her future husband, Jonas Mašiotas, a fellow Lithuanian. They married in 1906 (?) and in 1909, she gave birth to their only child, Ona (Anulė). Ona Mašiotienė’s (apparently happy) marriage did not stop her from participating in public events such as the first Lithuanian Women’s Congress (23–24 September 1907). After completing her studies, she moved to Vilnius —the center of Lithuanian as well as of Polish cultural life—where she took up teaching at Vilnius High School (1911–1914). During World War I, the family fled to Moscow, where Ona Mašiotienė established the Lietuvos moteru ˛ laisvės sąjunga (Lithuanian Women’s Freedom Union) and became its Chairwoman. In 1917, she represented the Lithuanian Women’s Freedom Union at the Lietuviu ˛ seimas Peterburge (the Lithuanian Parliament in St Petersburg), where she delivered a speech on women’s rights. Lithuania gained its independence in 1918. Returning with her family to Vilnius in 1918, Ona Mašiotienė set up and led the first Lithuanian language high school for girls in Vilnius, as well as a high school, arranged as evening courses, in the Russian language (the aim of the latter school was to give young Lithuanians, returning home from Russia after the war, the opportunity to complete their education in the language in which they had started it: i.e. Russian). In 1919, the Polish army marched into Vilnius, at that time an important center of Polish, Jewish and Lithuanian culture. Vilnius/Wilno became an ‘apple of discord’ between Lithuania and Poland, which only established diplomatic relations in 1938. Despite Mašiotienė’s efforts to find able teachers for her schools, Polish officials closed them after just a year and a half of existence. In 1919, Mašiotienė was elected to the Board of the Lietuviu ˛ mokytoju ˛ sąjunga (Lithuanian Teachers’ Union) and to the...


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