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552 SVOLOU, Maria (born Desypri) (1892?–1976) Greek feminist and socialist leader during the interwar period; inspector for the National Bureau of Employment; elected member of the National Council of the Liberated Greek Territory; Deputy of the Eniaia Dimokratiki Aristera (Unified Democratic Left); co-founder of the Syndesmos gia ta Dikaiomata tis Gynaikas/Ligue Héllénique pour le droit des femmes (Greek League for Women’s Rights); cofounder (1964) of the Panelladiki Enossi Gynaikon (Panhellenic Union of Women). Little is yet known about the life of Maria Svolou. Since no biography of her exists, we are only able to glimpse her career through her writings, her public activities (mentioned in periodicals, newspapers etc.), her parliamentary career , as well as through the life of her husband, of whom she was an admirer but with whose social democratic beliefs she sometimes disagreed. Parts of Svolou’s personal archives were lost when her house was plundered during World War II. Maria Desypri was born in Athens and lived for a couple of years in Piraeus. She was one of four daughters. When she was very young, her family moved to Larissa, where her father Georges Desypros (?–1915) was appointed director of the Greek National Bank’s regional branch. The family moved back to Athens after his death. The only information available concerning Maria’s formal education is that she attended the Arsakeion School of Larissa (for girls). She obtained her degree around 1907. In June 1916, she obtained a Certificate of French Studies and in 1919, a license to teach French from the Ecclesiastical and Public Education Ministries. In 1921, Desypri began working as an Inspector of Employment for the Ministry of National Economy, where she met her future husband, the academic jurist and politician Alexandros Svolos (?–1956). They married in 1923 and stayed together throughout their lives. They had no children, in accordance with her wishes. Maria Svolou’s public career seems to have begun with her involvement in the founding committee of the Syndesmos gia ta Dikaiomata tis Gynaikas/Ligue Héllénique pour le droit des femmes (Greek League for Women’s Rights), a liberal feminist group. The League was affiliated to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA). Svolou played an important role as a leading member (General Secretary) of the 553 League between 1920 and 1932, the latter year being one of internal disagreements within the League, resulting in Svolou’s resignation. From that time on, Svolou would become convinced that no real equality between the sexes could exist without intrinsic changes in general social and economic relations, leading to her involvement with the socialist movement. Up until 1932, Svolou had concentrated on working towards social reforms on behalf of women, especially rural and working class women, although she disagreed with special ‘protective legislation’ for women only. In 1925, she persuaded the Board of the League to establish an Esperini Emporiki Scholi Gynaikon Ypallilon (Evening Commercial School for Women Employees), which offered professional training to women seeking employment in either the public or private sectors. In 1929, she also inaugurated (through the League) the Papastrateios Scholi Paichnidion kai Diakosmitikis (Papastrateios School of Children’s Toys and Decorative Arts), which sought to help poor young people of both sexes find work by means of learning an applied craft. She continued to work for the Papastrateios Scholi until 1936, as its General Director. Her detailed reports on Greek women’s wages (as reported to the National Bureau of Employment) and her memoranda to the International Labor Office constitute valuable sources of historical information concerning the working and living conditions of women in interwar Greece. From 1932 to 1936, she was nominated Associated Member of the International Experts’ Committee of the International Labor Organization. In the period 1920–1932, Maria Svolou wrote a number of articles for publication in the League’s periodical, O Agonas tis Gynaikas (Woman’s struggle) and in certain daily newspapers, such as Eleftheron Vima (Free tribune) and I Vradyni (The evening). In these articles, she promoted central tenets of the League such as full equality and citizenship rights for Greek women. As General Secretary of the League, she also initiated women’s suffrage campaigns; however, the vote proved to be more difficult to attain than she had originally thought. To further the suffrage cause, she represented the League at some of the congresses organized by the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship (IAWSEC), among them the Tenth Congress in Paris (1926), where she...


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