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324 MĘCZKOWSKA, Teodora (1870–1954) Polish social activist, feminist, teacher; cofounder of numerous social, professional and women’s cultural and educational organizations. Teodora Maria Męczkowska (nee Oppman) was born on 5 September 1870 in Łowicz, a small town in the Polish Kingdom (under Russian partition). Her father, Jan Adolf Oppman, was the pastor of an Evangelical church; her mother, Teodora born Berlińska, was a teacher. In 1888, Teodora graduated from high school in Warsaw. Two years later, she left for Switzerland. From 1892 to 1896, she studied at the Faculty of Natural and Physical Sciences at the University of Geneva, gaining a Bachelier des Sciences Physique et Naturelles (B.A. in the natural sciences). In 1895, Teodora married Wacław Męczkowski (1863–1922), a physician and national independence activist (whom she probably met in Geneva). The couple settled in Warsaw. Theirs was a modern marriage, bound by deep emotional attachment, friendship, common interests and ideals. Both participated fully in social and public life. By choice they had no children. Męczkowska’s interests and activities were connected mainly with women’s emancipation , equality and questions of education. She was a member or co-founder of almost all the women’s organizations established in the Russian partition from the 1890s onwards, including the most radical feminist organization of the period, the Związek Równouprawnienia Kobiet Polskich (Union of Equal Rights for Polish Women), founded in 1907 and led by Paulina Kuczalska-Reinschmit. In 1907, Męczkowska left the Związek Równouprawnienia Kobiet Polskich and formed the more moderate Polskie Stowarzyszenie Równouprawnienia Kobiet (Polish Women’s Rights Association), which combined the goals of women’s equality with other social and political goals. Męczkowska participated in all the Polish women’s congresses (held in 1905, 1907, 1917 and 1938) and, as the President of the Centralny Komitet Równouprawnienia Kobiet Polskich (Central Committee of Polish Women’s Rights, founded in 1917), worked on legislation to improve women’s political and civil rights in the independent Polish State. 325 In 1919, Męczkowska co-founded, along with (among others) Justyna BudzińskaTylicka and Zofia Daszyńska-Golińska, the Klub Polityczny Kobiet Postępowych (KPKP, Progressive Women’s Political Club). The organization aimed primarily to increase women’s participation in political life, to campaign against women’s discrimination in the workplace—i.e. for the equal pay of women and men for equal work and for women’s promotion to higher positions—and for greater legal protection of mothers and children. In 1927, Męczkowska became Vice-President of the Demokratyczny Komitet Wyborczy Kobiet Polskich (Democratic Electoral Committee of Polish Women, founded in 1927). This organization cooperated with the Bezpartyjny Blok Współpracy z Rządem (Non-Party Bloc for Cooperation with the [right-wing] Government): a political party comprised of the followers of Prime Minister Józef Piłsudski, the leading figure in Polish political life after 1926. In 1928, in spite of its efforts, the Demokratyczny Komitet Wyborczy Kobiet Polskich only managed to have three of its candidates elected to the Polish Parliament: Zofia Daszyńska-Golińska to the Senate and Maria Jaworska and Ewa Waśniewska to the Sejm (Lower Chamber). In 1926, Męczkowska co-founded the Polskie Stowarzyszenie Kobiet z Wyższym Wykszta łceniem (Polish Association of Women with Higher Education), the Polish section of the International Federation of University Women. She was its President between 1927 and 1948. In a manifesto published in 1926, Do czego dążymy? (What are our aims?), she laid out the mission of the Association: to defend university women’s professional interests and to campaign for women’s equality with men in high-ranking positions. Męczkowska saw universal social benefits in including women in all aspects of social life and regarded women’s entry into the professions as a way for them to satisfy material needs and achieve self-realization. Awareness of women’s rights was thus linked by Męczkowska to women’s inner development and liberation from the prescribed roles of ‘wife’ and ‘mother.’ Męczkowska devoted many of her publications and speeches to ethical issues: she criticized prostitution, double moral standards and inadequate sex education. She initiated a campaign against state-regulated prostitution and, in 1900, founded the secret Towarzystwo Abolicjonistyczne (Abolitionist Society). After the Russian Parliament had begun work to ensure that domestic laws met international obligations (accepted by Russia) to curb the traffic in women for prostitution, M...


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