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427 PETKEVIČAITĖ, Gabrielė (1861–1943) Teacher, writer, journalist and editor; leader and ideologist of the Lithuanian women’s movement before World War I; founder of the Lietuvos moteru ˛ susivienijimas (Lithuanian Women’s Association, 1905) and the Lietuvos aboliucionistu ˛ draugija (Lithuanian Abolitionist Society, 1920); involved in the IWSA. Pseudonyms : ‘Bitė’ (Bee) and ‘Vilkienė.’ Gabrielė Petkevičaitė was born on 18 March 1861, into a Catholic gentry family on the Puziniškės family estate in the Panevežys district in northern Lithuania. The family estate of Puziniškės was a local cultural center that attracted many activists of the Lithuanian national movement. During the 1863–1864 uprising against Russian domination, Petkevičaite ̇’s parents sheltered rebels. Her father, Jonas Petkevičius (1828–?), was a doctor in the provincial Joniškis hospital and her mother, Malvina Chodakauskaitė-Petkevičienė (data unknown), organized social work and helped nurse poor patients and arrange support for their families. Gabrielė apparently inherited her parents’ sense of altruism and social justice. Gabrielė Petkevičaitė received her primary education at home from a private teacher, Laurynas Ivinskis, the author and editor of the first calendar in the Lithuanian language (from 1864 to 1904, printing in the Lithuanian language was banned). In 1873, she enrolled in a private girls’ school (the Töchterschule ‘Dorothea,’ owned by Cicilija von der Osten Zalien), from which she graduated in 1876 with an elementary school teacher’s license. While studying languages, history and mathematics, Petkevi- čaitė, who had been raised in a Catholic family, experienced a crisis of religiosity and eventually became indifferent to religious beliefs. From 1876 to 1878, Petkevičaitė continued her education at the Mintau girls’ high school of St. Trinitis and received a diploma to teach domestic science. After graduating, she expressed a desire to go on and study mathematics at university, but her father objected to her leaving Lithuania because he wanted her to manage the family estate. At that time, inspired by the works of Eliza Orzeszkowa and Swit (Sunrise), a magazine edited by the Polish essayist Maria Konopnicka, she became excited by ideas of women’s emancipation, especially the necessity of girls’ education. 428 Using the pseudonyms ‘Bitė’ (Bee) and ‘Vilkienė,’ Petkevičaitė actively contributed to the illegal Lithuanian press. She also helped organize and distribute Lithuanian books smuggled from Prussia. In 1890, she established a secret secular school on her estate where most of the students were girls and where she taught in Lithuanian. Petkevi čaitė contributed the income of Puziniškės, the estate she had inherited from her father, to the school so it could remain tuition-free and open to Lithuanian girls from the lower classes. By the end of the nineteenth century, Puziniškės had become a center of Lithuanian cultural and political life. Both her father and herself welcomed students, writers and artists. The five women Members of Parliament in 1920 Middle: Gabrielė Petkevičaiė, sitting right Magdalena Galdikienė Petkevičaitė felt that members of the male intelligentsia of her generation were hostile towards women, considered women unreliable and refused to invite them to meetings where important decisions were made. For this reason, she decided to work independently and in 1894, together with Jadvyga Juškytė, she established the first illegal charitable women’s organization Žiburėlis (Light), which financially and materially supported poor male and female students. She admired the British suffragettes’ struggle for the vote and was influenced by the French feminist Olympe de Gouges (1748– 1793), whom she read and referred to in her own writing. Petkevičaitė started discussions of women’s rights in the illegal Lithuanian press, encouraging and organizing 429 women’s initiatives in Lithuania. Her article “The women’s movement and its obligations ,” published in 1905, became a manifesto for future generations of women in Lithuania. She encouraged women to follow the women of Finland (who received the vote in 1905) by organizing a general women’s strike until the right to vote was won. Her writings also prompted Lithuanian women’s activism in the field of education. According to Petkevičaitė, Lithuanian women were the last in Europe to have become aware of their lack of rights, and had no time to lose in fighting for them. In 1905, Petkevičaitė organized a women’s meeting in Šiauliai, attended by some fifty women. The outcome of the meeting was the establishment of the Lietuvos moteru ˛ susivienijimas (Lithuanian Women’s Association), a secular, left-wing organization whose main goal was...


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