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599 VIKOVÁ-KUNĚTICKÁ, Božena (1862–1934) Czech author and playwright with a keen interest in women’s and other social issues ; journalist and politician; first woman to be elected to the National Assembly (1912). Božena Viková born Novotná was born on 30 July 1862 to an innkeeper and grain trader; there is no information about her mother. She studied acting under the guidance of the distinguished Czech actress Otýlie Sklenářová-Malá, giving up on this career after the National Theater burned down in 1881. In that year, she married Josef Vika, a clerk from a sugar factory, and the couple moved first to Uhříněves, later to Český Brod (towns near Prague). They had two children. In the early 1880s, Viková began publishing short stories in the journals Zábavné listy (Funny papers) and Divadelní listy (Theatrical letters). She signed her prose ‘Kunětická,’ after the nationally symbolic Kunětická Mount (in eastern Bohemia), and her poems ‘Julia Ignota’ (Julia Unknown ), ‘X. Ignota’ and ‘Ignota.’ Božena Viková-Kunětická published her early short stories and essays in the journals Lumír (Lumír) and Květy (Flowers), later compiling them for the collections Čtyři povídky (Four short stories, 1890), Staří mládenci a jiné povídky (Bachelors and other stories, 1901) and Macecha a jiné črty (Stepmother and other essays, 1902). Like her later novels, her stories depicted provincial towns or rural environments, employing irony as well as sentiment. Marriage is treated as a life-changing event and comical conflicts characterize family life, but Viková-Kunětická did not avoid tragic themes, often making causal links between the death of a child or an animal and the social conditions in which human ignorance escalates into ruthless cruelty—as in her collection of short stories ironically entitled Idylky (Small idylls, 1894). Viková-Kunětická’s irony and crude realism brought her close to the modernist poet Josef Svatopluk Machar. He himself was interested in women’s issues, particularly in the situation of middle-class women at the end of the nineteenth century, to whom he dedicated a book of poems, Zde by měly kvést růže… (Here, where the roses should flower…, 1894) and a novel in verses, Magdalena (Magdalene, 1894). He encouraged Viková-Kunětická to write candidly from ‘a woman’s point of view,’ and to 600 ignore the negative critique of her work that would (and did) follow. VikováKun ětická’s devotion to women’s causes gradually radicalized. She was strongly influenced , not only by European realism (Henrik Ibsen, Leo N. Tolstoi, Ivan. S. Turgenev ), but by the psycho-physiological and sociological theories developed by Richard von Kraft-Ebing and Max Nordau, which she turned to ironic use in her short story “Staří mládenci” (Bachelors)—about three affluent old brothers and their fetish for female underwear as a substitute for women. In her longer novels, Viková-Kunětická began exploring what she saw as radical changes in the psyche of middle-class women towards the turn of the century. Her texts became sharply polemical, criticizing traditional notions of female dependency on men and celebrating independent motherhood, as in her novels Minulost I (Past I, 1895) and the trilogy K světlu (Towards the light, 1910), consisting of Medřická (Medřická, 1897), Vzpoura (The revolt, 1901) and Pán (The master, 1905). She passionately believed in women’s emancipation and praised the mother who chose freedom over hypocritical relationships. These critical novels purposely avoided conventional character constructions and her protagonists revealed a latent crisis of manhood in modern patriarchal society, provoking public debates about women’s liberty, the essence of true motherhood and its political role in society. Viková-Kunětická’s feminist dramas were also well-received by the general public. Inspired by the Nordic dramatists Henrik Ibsen, Bjornstjerne Bjornson and August Strindberg, her play V jařmu (Yoked, 1897) analyzed marital inequality and Co bylo (What was, 1902) depicted a tense family atmosphere resulting in the disclosure of a husband’s infidelity. The plays Přítěž (Burden, 1901) and Dospělé děti (Adult children, 1909) are ironic send ups of feminist sloganism, which appears shallow against a backdrop of exaggerated middle-class individualism. Some of her plays about marital relationships—Sběratelka starožitností (Collector of antiques, 1890), Reprezentantka domu (Representative of the house, 1911) and Cop (Braid, 1904)—were performed at theaters in Vienna, Dresden, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Moscow and Paris. As...


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