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604 VODE, Angela (1892–1985) Slovenian feminist activist, teacher, member of the antifascist movement, politician and author of the first feminist essays on women’s history in Slovenia. Her name has been virtually unknown in Slovenia for the last fifty years. Yet one could say that her work and her life-story (or “destiny” as she put it) not only form a significant narrative in the history of Slovenia, with its political transformations (including developments and breaks within women’s movements and organizations ), they also form a part of the wider history of feminism itself. Born on 5 January 1892, Angela Vode was the third daughter of five children raised in a poor working-class family. Her father Anton was a railwayman (died 1904). Of her mother, Frančiška, it is only known that she died in 1919. Angela was very close to her older sister Ivana Špindler (1888–1975), who, right up until her death, was Angela Vode’s roommate, her protector and companion. The highest level of education Slovenian girls could receive in the nineteenth century was secondary education at a so-called girls’ lyceum. It was only from the late nineteenth century on that girls were allowed to take final exams (Matura) at secondary schools under the same conditions as boys, and they could only take exams at grammar schools as ‘private persons’ (Privatistinnen), which meant that they sat for the exams but did not attend school. Later, they could attend as ‘occasional students’ (Hospitantinnen). Prior to 1919, only twelve Slovene women had completed university studies (in Vienna, St Petersburg, and other universities abroad). Angela Vode worked as a teacher in several primary schools near Ljubljana (from 1911 to 1917), when she lost her job after a political disagreement with the local Catholic authorities. In addition to this, she was known as a ‘red feminist’ who publicly expressed her opinions regarding political autonomy for Slovene people—an autonomy which she did not believe could ever be realized within the Catholic Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. She was accused of having an irreligious attitude and lacking the patriotic fervor necessary to be a teacher. Between 1917 and 1921, Vode worked for a bank (Jadranska banka), later for a foundry factory as an administrative assistant and after that as a secretary for the 605 Jugoslovanska socialdemokratska stranka (JSDS, Yugoslav Social Democratic Party). In accordance with the educational system of the time, she took private lessons and began to study teaching methods for children with special needs in Prague, Berlin and Vienna. She passed the relevant teaching exams in Ljubljana in 1921 and began teaching at the Special School for the Disabled (also in Ljubljana), where she worked until 1944. In 1919, she became a member and secretary of the Socialdemokratska stranka Slovenije (SDSS, Social Democratic Party), thus launching her political career. She was among the founding members of the Slovenska Komunistična partija (SKP, Slovenian Communist Party), established in April 1920, and remained a member until 1939, when she was expelled because she could not and did not accept Stalin’s pact with Hitler. After the outbreak of World War II, she organized humanitarian aid for refugees and their families until February 1944, when she was imprisoned by German fascists for being a communist and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. After six months she was released due to a lucky turn of fate (the exact details are not known; the most likely explanation is that, because her sister in Ljubljana had cared for the ill wife of the German Major Oton Biella, who helped other Slovenes too, Biella interceded for Angela Vode). Given the rarity of surviving such an experience, Vode was treated with suspicion by both enemies and friends thereafter, almost right up until her death. Three years later, she was imprisoned again, this time by the victorious communists in Yugoslavia. She had criticized the first ‘democratic’ elections after World War II, as well as the new governmental and educational system. At a Stalinist-styled trial, she was accused of treason, condemned to twenty years of forced labor in prison and deprived of her civic rights for five years. She was held in prison for almost six years (from 25 May 1947 to 1 January 1953): first in Begunje, later transfered to the KPD (penal and reform institute) at Rajhenburg/Brestanica (a medieval castle, formerly a women’s prison and today a museum). After ‘becoming free’ in 1953, Vode was not allowed to work or write publicly...


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