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328 MEISSNER, Elena (1867?–1940?) Co-founder (1918) and leader of the Asocia ţia pentru emanciparea civilă şi politică a femeilor române (AECPFR, Association for the Civil and Political Emancipation of Romanian Women); active in the international women’s movement in the interwar period. Born Elena Buznea in the Moldavian city of Huşi in 1867(?), Meissner was one of the first female students to attend the University of Iaşi in the mid-1880s, where she graduated in literature. In 1905, she married Constantin Meissner (1854–1942), a prominent political personality and General Secretary to the Ministry of Arts and Public Education prior to World War I. After the war, Constantin Meissner became a member of several short-lived political parties, including the center-right People’s Party led by the World War I hero, Marshal Alexandru Averescu. Elena Meissner first worked as a teacher in Iaşi, later becoming Principal of the Institute for Young Ladies for ten years. During her very active political life, she remained dedicated to this vocation and to younger generations of women, continuing her teaching into later life. In 1929, she retired from her teaching post at the Lady Oltea Lyceum in Iaşi, where she had taught history, philosophy and pedagogy whilst continuing to participate in, and encourage the creation of new educational opportunities for women. In 1932, at an important feminist Congress organized by the Uniunea Femeilor Române (Union of Romanian Women) in Iaşi, she made a special plea to all participants to focus more actively on educating peasant women as to their rights and responsibilities in their communities, especially given that the 1932 Civil Code had extended full civil rights to all women. These educational activities were to encourage a sense of responsibility towards the family, promote a strong work ethic and discourage rural-to-urban migration of women under the age of twenty. In addition to her activities as a teacher and leader in the movement for women’s education, Meissner was also a prominent civic leader and an ardent feminist. She helped found several organizations for the protection of poor and young women and participated actively in many prominent organizations such as the Red Cross, the School Cafeteria, the Reuniunea Femeilor Române (Reunion of Romanian Women) 329 and the Societatea Ortodoxă Naţională a Femeilor Române (SONFR, National Orthodox Society of Romanian Women). Meissner is best known for her pioneering and tireless campaigns for women’s political and civil rights. In 1917, she was among the handful of women who signed a petition asking for the extension of political and civil rights to all ethnically Romanian women. In 1918, together with Maria Baiulescu, Ella Negruzzi and Calypso Botez, Meissner co-founded the Asociaţia pentru emanciparea civilă şi politică a femeilor române (AECPFR, Association for the Civil and Political Emancipation of Romanian Women). Together with Ella Negruzzi, she remained the leader of this organization throughout the interwar period and saw it through some tough battles, both with the patriarchal establishment and with other feminist organizations (which parted ways with the AECPFR in the 1930s). In the early 1920s, Meissner worked with Alexandrina Cantacuzino, a prominent women’s leader in Wallachia and President of the SONFR, and Maria Baiulescu, an important leader of the women’s movement in Transylvania. Through the Consiliul Naţional al Femeilor Române (CNFR, National Council of Romanian Women), Meissner worked to strengthen exchange between women of all regions and political outlooks . The CNFR was to be an umbrella organization that would welcome every kind of women’s organization, feminist or otherwise. The aim was to facilitate conversation , debate and cooperation between women in the hope of increasing women’s public visibility and creating a platform for women to voice their concerns. In 1923, Meissner and other women leaders organized a series of important protests through the CNFR to draw attention to the fact that women would not be enfranchised in the new Constitution. Meissner spoke eloquently of the lack of consideration given Romanian women, in comparison with “the 138 million women [in other countries, Eds.] who participate in the public administration of their countries with very satisfactory results” (Mihăilescu 2002, 41). Yet the protests were to no avail. Following this blow to the feminist movement, a split into two camps occured. One believed, like Alexandrina Cantancuzino, that all women needed to join forces as a single political affiliation. The other believed that working with existing political...


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