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521 SLACHTA, Margit (1884–1974) Activist of the Hungarian Catholic women ’s movement; social worker; leading figure of the Szociális Missziótársulat (Social Mission Society); first female Member of Parliament in Hungary; founder (1923) and prioress of the Szociális Testvérek Társasága (Society of the Sisters of Social Service). Postwar pseudonyms: ‘Margit Nemes’ and ‘Borbála Nemes.’ Margit Slachta was born on 18 September 1884, in the city of Kassa (today Košice, Slovakia), in the ‘northern highlands ’ (Felvidék) of Hungary. Her parents —Kálmán Slachta (1857–1936), descendent of a respectable nobleman of Polish origin, and Borbála Saárossy of Sáros (1855–1936), daughter of a landlord —married in 1882. Margit was the second of six girls; her five sisters were: Mária Antónia (1883–1935), Borbála (1886–1887), Irén (1888–1970), Borbála (1891–1961) and Erzsébet (1896–1988). In 1907, her father, a carefree man who spurned religious devotion, became the general manager of the Kassa Savings Bank but his irresponsibility led to bankruptcy . In 1908, with his wife and three younger children, he emigrated to America . Margit, who remained in Hungary, claimed the only thing she had inherited from her parents was her headstrong nature. She attended the elementary teacher-training college in Kassa (1901–1903), later the Kalocsai Miasszonyunk Nővérek Tanárképző (Teacher Training College of the Sisters of Our Lady’s Order) in Kalocsa (1903– 1906), where she graduated as a lower-level secondary school teacher of German, French and history. Her life-long devotion to women’s causes through Christian social work stems from this period. Organized Catholic charity appeared in Hungary around the turn of the century. In the late 1890s, the widow of Count Pál Pálffy (born Countess Geraldine Károlyi, 1836–1915) founded the first organization to follow the activities of the so-called patronages already operative in other European countries. By Margit Slachta (right), 1935 (at the latest ), with her mother and sister Borbála in front of her parents’ home. After the death of Slachta’s parents in 1936, the villa was turned into a boarding-house managed by one of the sisters of the Society of the Sisters of Social Service. In 1944/1945, around ninety Jews were hidden from Nazi occupying forces in the house (Budapest-Hűvösvölgy, Báthory László utca 10). Today the villa is home to the Generalate i.e. the international headquarters of the Society. 522 1906, this organization had developed into the Országos Katholikus Nővédő Egyesület (National Catholic League for the Protection of Women), with Edit Farkas (1877– 1942) as Vice-President. In 1908, Farkas set up a new organization, the Szociális Missziótársulat (SzMT, Social Mission Society), a votive sisterhood of social workers and patronesses. The SzMT was approved by the Bishop of Székesfehérvár, but also allowed civil activities. In Farkas’ view, only co-workers who devoted their entire lives to the cause within the framework of a religious organization could bring about real change. As a student, Slachta was greatly influenced by the work and charismatic personalities of Edit Farkas and Sarolta Korányi (1868–1935)—the latter was the outstanding leader (between 1912 and 1919) of the Katolikus Munkásnő Egyesület (Association of Catholic Women Workers, founded in 1912). Slachta began patronage work and, after completing a training course for social work in Berlin (in the Soziale Frauenschule, i.e. Social School for Women) in early 1908, gave up teaching entirely to be able to devote all her time to social work. She was one of the pioneers who joined the SzMT. The SzMT soon began carrying out social activities among delinquent youth and in prisons, allowing Slachta to bring her spiritual beliefs into worldly spheres and concerns. She was soon a leading figure of the Christian patronage movement and publisher of the Értesítő (Bulletin, established in 1912) of the SzMT, and related Catholic organizations. Slachta developed a systematic training program for female social workers and, from 1915, became the editor of the journal A Kereszt ény Nő (The Christian woman), which succeeded Értesítő. From 1918 to 1920, Slachta edited Magyar Nő (Hungarian woman). Slachta’s feminism focused on women’s vocational training (for professions considered suitably feminine) and, after World War I, on citizenship rights. Her methods were unconventional, her style and tactics modern...


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