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562 SZELIGA, Maria (pseudonym), also known in France and the USA as Maria Chéliga or Chéliga-Loevy (1854–1927) Polish novelist, poet and social publicist; socialist and pioneer of the international Polish women’s movement. Other pseudonyms : ‘B. Saryusz,’ ‘Bolesław Saryusz,’ ‘Cioteczka’ (meaning ‘Auntie’), ‘Marynia,’ ‘Jerzy Horwat,’ ‘Matylda Mahon’ and ‘Vox.’ Maria Szeliga (nee Mirecka, first married name Czarnowska; second married name Loevy) was born in 1854 into a prosperous land-owning family in Jasieniec Solecki, in the Kingdom of Poland (a partially autonomous state, later taken by Russia, established after the 1815 Vienna Congress and including areas originally annexed by Prussia and Austria). After the premature death of her father, Maria grew up in the care of her mother and received a broad education at home. At the age of sixteen, she left home for Warsaw and began working on poems and novellas which would be published by the leading socio-literary periodicals of the time: Opiekun Domowy (Family carer); Kłosy (Ears of corn); Biblioteka Romansów i Powieści (Romance and novel library); Przegląd Tygodniowy (Weekly review) and Przyjaciel dzieci (Children’s friend). In 1873, she published in book form her two novels, Dla ideału (For an ideal) and W przeddzień (The day before), as well as a collection of poems entitled Pieśni i piosenki (Songs and lyrics). Influenced by ideas of women’s emancipation, Szeliga made the internal conflicts of single women, striving for independence and struggling against the double moral standards of their immediate community , a leitmotif of her texts. In part, her own life experiences inspired her when constructing the fate of her heroines. In 1875, she traveled across Europe, visiting Prague, Munich, Verona, Padua, Rome and Naples. She published reports from this journey in one of the first Polish magazines for women, Tygodnik Mód i Powieści (Fashion and novels weekly). Upon her return to Poland in 1876, she and her mother took up permanent residence in Warsaw. In September of that year, she married the publisher of her poems, Stanisław Jan Czarnowski, but the couple decided to separate only a few weeks later and divorce proceedings began. Szeliga stayed in Warsaw for four more years (1876–1880). She 563 wrote plays that were celebrated for their humorous, animated and sophisticated plots, and eagerly performed by open-air theaters in Warsaw, Cracow, Lviv and Poznan. [See, for example, her Iwan Podkowa (Ivan Horseshoe, 1876) and Córka elegantki (Daughter of a lady of fashion, 1878); her play Szczęście Walusia (Good luck little Waluś) received an award in 1878 in the Aleksander Fredro Competition, Lviv.] After 1876, Szeliga became increasingly involved in socialist educational and cultural activities. She taught Polish history and literature (subjects forbidden in the Kingdom of Poland) and held discussions at meetings of mixed—but in all probability male dominated—workers’ groups. When the tsarist authorities uncovered one such group in 1880, Szeliga left for France in order to avoid arrest and deportation to Siberia . She remained in Paris and there married a Polish painter, Edward Loevy. The Loevy residence became a center of Polish émigré life in France and Szeliga continued her literary and journalistic work. She published in Polish periodicals (mainly correspondence , theatrical reviews, recent French literature reviews and translations), as well as articles on women’s movements and ‘the woman question’ in French periodicals such as Le Figaro, La Parole Libre (The free word), Monde Moderne (The modern world) and Journal des Débats (Journal of debates). In 1889, she published a novel in Cracow entitled Na przebój (Force one’s way), dedicated to the question of women’s access to higher education. The book was soon translated into French, German, Swedish and Spanish. Her theatrical plays gained recognition in France and were performed on French stages (for example, her L’Orničre, Les Déblaueurs and Les Nihilistes ). They were never, however, presented to Polish audiences under Russian partition . The Russian authorities would never have consented to performances of Szeliga’s plays, nor to her return to Russia because of the public accusations she had made against the tsarist government. In an 1889 lecture to the International Pedagogical Congress in Paris, Szeliga gave a detailed account of the Russian administration’s repressive educational policies in the Polish territories, aimed at the Russification of Polish schoolchildren. In 1901, Szeliga again publicly denounced ‘denationalization’ policies in both the Russian and Prussian partitions. A letter she had written, protesting the...


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