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575 TOMŠIČ, Vida (born Bernot) (1913–1998) Slovenian lawyer, member of the Communist Party and the National Liberation Movement; socialist politician and drafter of state policies on women and gender relations. Born on 26 June 1913 in Ljubljana, a Slovenian town situated between the Alps and the Adriatic sea, Vida Tomšič lived a long and turbulent life, reflecting the history of the area in which she lived. Born in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the territory of her birth became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia only a few years after World War I. Her father, Ivan Bernot, was a teacher and her mother Franja, born Rozman, a housewife. Vida had three brothers and one sister. She attended primary and grammar school in Ljubljana. In 1933, she began a course of study in history and geography at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, switching to law in 1935 and graduating from the Faculty of Law in 1941. Vida Bernot’s childhood was not a particularly hard one, but she could not overlook the existence of vast social differences and the particular injustices suffered by women. Her early attempts to find like-minded persons within the Catholic Church to support her efforts for the social rights of women and the lower classes were unsuccessful , later bringing her to left-wing student societies such as Triglav (the name of a mountain) and Jadran (the name of a sea), and women’s organizations such as the Zveza delavskih žena in deklet (Union of Working Women and Girls) and the Jugoslovanska ženska zveza (Union of Yugoslav Women), of which she was not a member but with which she worked from time to time. In 1934, Bernot became a member of the illegal Komunistična partija Jugoslavije (Yugoslav Communist Party) and, in 1935, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment. In 1937, she married Tone Tomšič (1910– 1942), a law student and leading Slovene communist. In 1940, Vida Tomšič became a member of the Slovene and Yugoslav Communist Party leadership, and at the Fifth Yugoslav National Party Conference held the same year, presented a paper entitled “Naloge Komunistične partije Jugoslavije pri delu med ženskami” (The work of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia among women), in which she outlined the official program of the Communist Party. The party linked the emancipation of women to the 576 social transformation of society, and the liberation of humanity from all forms of exploitation. Within this framework, women’s political activity was to be channeled solely into the revolutionary movement of the Communist Party. In the name of the party, Vida Tomšič promised Yugoslav women maternity leave, kindergartens, protection from harmful labor, public services providing medical care for women and children , the legal equality of legitimate and illegitimate children, equality in education and in professional life, equal pay for equal work, passive and active voting rights and the right to abortion for social reasons. Tomšič joined the National Liberation Movement in the spring of 1941, early on in the occupation of Slovenia and Yugoslavia by German, Italian and Hungarian forces. In August 1941, she gave birth to her son Mihael, but returned to underground activity several months later. In December 1941, Italian and German secret police agents arrested her, along with her husband. Both were severely tortured in Italian and German prisons and the following year, the Italian Military Tribunal sentenced Vida Tomšič to 25 years of prison and her husband to death. He was executed and she was sent to prison in Italy. When Italy surrendered in October 1943, Tomšič returned to Yugoslavia and took up a leading position in the Yugoslav armed struggle against the German army. After the war, Tomšič gained political prominence in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which consisted of six republics: Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia. In May 1945, she became the Minister of Social Policy in the first Slovenian national government (until 1946). She remarried in 1946, to Franc Novak (1908–1999), a former partisan doctor and internationally recognized gynaecologist. They had two children, Živa (b. 1948) and Branko (b. 1947). In the postwar period, Vida Tomšič (who retained this surname until her death) held many important positions in Slovene and Yugoslav governmental and parliamentary bodies and political organizations: she was a member (1940–1982) of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Slovenia and Yugoslavia; President (1948–1952) of the Antifašistična fronta žensk...


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