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534 STERN, Szeréna, Mrs Pollák (1894–1966) Hungarian elementary school teacher; leading figure in the social democratic women’s movement in the interwar period ; leading social politician, who focused on child protection and social services for mothers at the municipal level; first female head of department in the city administration (1945). Szeréna Stern was born on 15 June 1894 in Nagyatád, south-west of Hungary ’s Lake Balaton, into a very poor Jewish family. Her mother’s maiden name was Rózsa Herstein and Szeréna had at least one younger sister, but nothing else is known of her family. Having graduated as an elementary school teacher, Szeréna Stern became a member (very likely from 1917) of the teachers’ union (in all probability the Mária Dorothea Egyesület [Mária Dorothea Association] for women teachers) and, in 1918, of the Magyarorsz ági Szociáldemokrata Párt (MSzDP, Social Democratic Party of Hungary; from 1939 the Social Democratic Party). In 1920, she was elected to serve on the Országos Nőszervező Bizottság (National Women’s Organizing Committee) of her party, in which she remained a leading figure until 1948. In these early years, Szeréna Stern became close friends and spent most of her free time with other representatives of a new generation of (future) leading representatives of Social Democracy, and particularly with the women among them, including Flóra Martos, Mrs Pál Knurr, Mrs Illés Mónus and Anna Kéthly. Through these circles, she also became acquainted with her future husband, Ferenc Pollák (data unavailable). In this period, she often used the Hungarian surname ‘Somogyi’ as a pseudonym when making public appearances on behalf of the party. She soon became one of the principal organizers, and later, secretary of the Magyarországi Munkások Gyermekbarát Egyesülete (Children’s Friends Association of the Workers of Hungary), with which she had worked since 1917. Under the semi-authoritarian Horthy regime of the interwar period, the MSzDP was only really able to remain a visible political actor in the municipalities, particularly Mrs Pollák in her function as Department Head in the Budapest municipality with General Zamercev, military governor of the Hungarian capital from 1945 to 1948, on the occasion of the second jubilee of Zamercev’s appointment; also on the picture the deputy mayor, the mayor and the attorney general of Budapest. 535 Budapest. Mrs Pollák became an elected member of Budapest’s Municipal Council in 1925 and kept this position for one and a half decades. Initiality, she was one of the very few women among the 250 elected deputies, and from the 1930s on, remained the only female social democratic representative. Her work within the Municipal Council soon became well known among party members. She also led party seminars for female workers focusing on municipal politics. The Social Democrats called her the “mother of Budapest” (Kenyeres 1967, 429) and articles such as “Asszonyok a városházában” (Women in City Hall), detailing Mrs Pollák’s engagement at the municipal level, were even published in other journals of the Hungarian women’s movement such as the Dolgozó Asszonyok Lapja (Journal of working women, December 1931), a moderate forum for middle-class working women. In her speeches at party congresses and articles in the social democratic Nőmunkás (Woman worker), Mrs Pollák insisted that there was “no systematic social policy in Budapest” [Dolgozó Asszonyok Lapja (December 1931): 187] and devoted herself to building an alternative, systematic and preventive system of social provisions and regulations. In her view, the improvement of living conditions and increased investment in social policy would not only help women to combine work and family, but also constitute a direct response to the pronatalist ideology of the Horthy regime. “A society,” she wrote, “which cannot ensure basic living conditions for her members has no right to claim more births from women” [Nőmunkás (January 1932): 2–4]. As a member of the Budapest Municipal Council, Mrs Pollák was first elected to the Education Commission, later to the Commission for Social Policy and Welfare and, from 1934, to the newly established Commission for Child Protection, which dealt with day-care facilities, summer holiday camps, nutrition for children and so on. In municipal policy, she poured her energies into the improvement of living conditions and welfare institutions for mothers and children in Budapest. Particularly successful and important initiatives included building...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9786155053726
Related ISBN
9789637326394
MARC Record
OCLC
868217084
Pages
698
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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