This contribution is a translation of a speech given by the president of the Yugoslav Feminist Alliance, Alojzija Štebi, to the second conference of the Little Entente of Women (LEW) in Belgrade in 1924. The introduction contextualizes the source, introduces Alojzija Štebi through a biographical note, and offers a glimpse into Yugoslav women’s participation in the Little Entente of Women. It shows that Štebi’s conceptualization of feminism was inseparable from politics, called for political reform, and invited the members of the LEW to move toward the full-scale participation of women in politics and state affairs.
Alojzija Štebi, “Mišljenje javnosti i feminizam u Jugoslaviji” (Public Opinion and Feminism in Yugoslavia)
Ženski pokret [Women’s Movement] 9 (1924), 376–379
The Little Entente of Women in Czechoslovakia
Gabriela Dudeková Kováčová
Focusing on the involvement of feminist activist women from Czechoslovakia in the Little Entente of Women (LEW), this article examines the ideological and political limits of transnational cooperation within such an international organization, one that aimed to promote women’s rights and pacifism in Central and Eastern Europe. The case of Czechoslovakia suggests that deep, ideological divisions between liberal feminist and conservative nationalist threads within the LEW’s national branch seriously undermined eff orts at unity and “global sisterhood” on the international level. It became possible to overcome ideological and political differences in the 1920s without questioning the very existence of the LEW. However, the antirevisionist political agenda of states involved in the LEW was a decisive factor in its reorganization. This article characterizes the rather limited impact of the LEW’s activities in Czechoslovakia and presents new details on its reorganization in the 1930s.
Birgitta Bader-Zaar, Evguenia Davidova, Minja Bujaković, Milena Kirova, Malgorzata Fidelis, Stefano Petrungaro, Alexandra Talavar, Daniela Koleva, Rochelle Ruthchild, Vania Ivanova, Valentina Mitkova, Roxana L. Cazan, Sylwia Kuźma-Markowska, and Nadia Danova
Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics 4, no. 2, “East European Feminisms, Part 1: The History of East European Feminisms,” eds. Maria Bucur and Krassimira Daskalova, 2020.
Maria Bucur, The Nation’s Gratitude: World War I and Citizenship Rights in Interwar Romania, London: Routledge, 2022, vi–viii, 231 pp., $160.00 (hardback), $48.95 (ebook), ISBN: 978-0-367-74978-1.
Sanja Ćopić and Zorana Antonijević, eds., Feminizam, aktivizam, politike: Proizvodnja znanja na poluperiferiji. Zbornik radova u čast Marine Blagojević Hughson (Feminism, activism, politics: Knowledge production in the semiperiphery. Collection in honor of Marina Blagojević Hughson), Belgrade: Institute for Criminological and Sociological Research (IKSI), 2021, 621 pp., ISBN: 978-86-80756-42-4.
Krassimira Daskalova, Zhorzheta Nazarska, and Reneta Roshkeva, eds., Ot siankata na istoriata: Zhenite v bulgarskoto obshtestvo i kultura, volume 2, Izvori za istoriana na zhenite: Dnevnitsi, spomeni, pisma, beletristika (From the shadows of history: Women in Bulgarian society and culture, volume 2, Sources of women’s history: diaries, memoirs, letters, fiction), Sofi a: Sofi a University Press, 2021, 621 pp., BGN 30 (paperback), ISBN: 978-954-07-5180-1.
Melissa Feinberg, Communism in Eastern Europe, New York: Routledge, 2022, 229 pp., $44.75 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-8133-4817-9.
Fabio Giomi, Making Muslim Women European: Voluntary Associations, Gender, and Islam in Post-Ottoman Bosnia and Yugoslavia (1878–1941), Budapest: CEU Press, 2021, 420 pp., €88.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-963-386-369-5.
Yulia Gradskova, The Women’s International Democratic Federation, the Global South and the Cold War: Defending the Rights of Women of the “Whole World”? London: Routledge, 2020, 222 pp. £29.59 (e-book), ISBN: 9781003050032.
Dagmar Gramshammer-Hohl and Oana Hergenröther, eds., Foreign Countries of Old Age: East and Southeast European Perspectives on Aging, Aging Studies, vol. 19, Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2021, 386 pp., €45 (paperback), ISBN: 978-3-8376-4554-5.
Wendy Z. Goldman and Donald Filtzer, Fortress Dark and Stern: The Soviet Home Front During World War II, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021, 528 pp., $34.95 (hardback), ISBN: 9780190618414.
Oksana Kis, Survival as Victory: Ukrainian Women in the Gulag, Harvard Series in Ukrainian Studies, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2021, 652 pp., 78 color photos, 10 photos, €84.50 (hardback), ISBN: 9780674258280.
Yelena Lembersky and Galina Lembersky, Like a Drop of Ink in a Downpour: Memories of Soviet Russia, Boston: Cherry Orchard Books, 2022, 247 pp., $17.19 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-64469-669-9.
Mihaela Miroiu, Povestiri despre Cadmav (Stories about Cadmav), Bucharest: Rocart, 2021, 270 pp., RON 31.00 (paperback), ISBN: 978-606-95093-0-2.
Mie Nakachi, Replacing the Dead: The Politics of Reproduction in the Postwar Soviet Union, New York: Oxford University Press, 2021, 352 pp., $39.95 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-0190635138.
Olga Todorova, Domashnoto robstvo i robovladenie v osmanska Rumelia (Domestic slavery and slave ownership in Ottoman Rumelia), Sofia: Gutenberg, 2021, 444 pp., BGN 30 (paperback), ISBN: 978-619-176-195-1.
The infrequent publications about women’s agency in European diplomacy have concerned themselves with either the early modern age or the post-World War I period, but women remain virtually absent from the diplomatic history of the long nineteenth century. To determine their place in the European political world of this period, this article examines the experiences of four Russian diplomats’ wives. The biographical approach reveals contradictions in patriarchal discourse: it required a diplomat’s wife to be worthy of her role as a representative of the Russian Empire, yet effectively dismissed her from politics. From this another contradiction ensued: as a diplomat’s wife played no political role, the ministry turned a blind eye if her actions challenged traditional social and gender norms, even when such actions led to the neglect of her duties as her husband’s helpmeet.
Sharon A. Kowalsky
As I prepare this volume’s introduction, we are well into the third month of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Aspasia editorial board joins the leaders of multiple scholarly organizations around the world in condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s devastating attack not only on the Ukrainian people and their culture, but also on the very principles of national self-determination. As historians of and in the region, we particularly condemn the misinterpretations, distortions, and simplifications of Russian and Ukrainian history in the context of the current conflict. Such misinformation actively undermines open dialogue, democracy, and democratic regimes everywhere. In addition, we are deeply troubled by the growing militarization of our region that this war has legitimized. As women’s and gender historians, we understand the consequences that ensue when military values and practices overshadow civilian ones, and the implications that result from propaganda, censorship, and the militarizing of society, particularly regarding violence toward women. We are also only just beginning to conceive of the long-term implications of the war in Ukraine for scholars and scholarship in our region. Beyond concerns for the immediate personal safety of individual scholars and colleagues, we are facing the probable destruction and loss of significant Ukrainian archival and other sources on all aspects of Ukrainian history. The probable impact on future research in our field is catastrophic and will require us to reconsider our research priorities, goals, and methods. At the same time, the war has added urgency to a growing recognition of the need to “decolonize” scholarship and to confront ethnocentrism—to move away from a traditionally Russocentric focus, to better recognize the complexities of the historical experiences in the region, and to place such experiences in their broader historical contexts, offering a more complete, nuanced, and holistic analysis to undermine simplistic, nationalistic, and distorted narratives. As the war in Ukraine amplifies calls for such a reorientation for the field, these shifts reinforce and complement the mission of Aspasia as a forum for the multiplicity of voices that speak in and about the region, on all topics related to women’s and gender history.
The Little Entente of Women (1923–1938)
The primary goals of the Little Entente of Women were to hammer out a common agenda and joint strategies for the promotion of women’s demands in the respective countries, and to create favorable conditions for socioeconomic, cultural, and political cooperation among the member states. This article addresses the latter goal of the LEW, based on the position that its objectives were deeply political, interwoven with contemporary political challenges in the region, and intersected with the foreign affairs policies of the associated countries. To support this position, the article explores the historical and political circumstances at the foundation of the LEW, the entanglements of its feminist strategies with regional diplomacy and politics and, lastly, focusing on the “Greek case,” the relationship between the foreign policy of the Greek state and the political initiatives of the Greek LEW member.
Maria Bucur, Katerina Dalakoura, Krassimira Daskalova, and Gabriela Dudeková Kováčová
This Forum introduces an innovative topic: the short but rich story of the local network of Eastern European feminists, the Little Entente of Women (LEW), which so far has attracted little attention among historians working on the region. The four authors present their analysis through the prism of entangled history. The introduction contextualizes the creation and activities of the LEW by providing background information about the post-World War I period, the tensions and struggles between the revisionist and antirevisionist states, and the entanglements between feminist and national goals and between nationalism and internationalism among women’s movements and feminisms at the time.
The History of Sexuality in Eastern Europe Flourishes
Kristen Ghodsee, Why Women Have Better Sex under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence, New York: Hachette, 2018, 356 pp, $17.99 (paperback), ISBN 9781645036364
Kateřina Lišková, Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style: Communist Czechoslovakia and the Science of Desire, 1945–1989, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018, 293 pp, $31.99 (paperback), ISBN 9781108341332
Agnieszka Kościańska, Gender, Pleasure, and Violence: The Construction of Expert Knowledge of Sexuality in Poland, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2021, 268 pp, $42.00 (paperback), ISBN 9780253053091
Agnieszka Kościańska, To See a Moose: The History of Polish Sex Education, New York: Berghahn, 2021, 354 pp, $145.00 (hardback), ISBN 9781800730601
Anita Kurimay, Queer Budapest, 1871–1961, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020, 336 pp, $32.50 (paperback), ISBN 9780226705798
At the Crossroads of Tradition and Emancipation (1952–1980)
To gain insight into the desirable characteristics of the Yugoslav New Woman, this article focuses on the country’s only first lady, Jovanka Broz. Considering her as the most visible embodiment of modern Yugoslav womanhood, it analyzes portrayals of the first lady in the Yugoslav popular press, considering the interplay of several factors, including her strategy of (self-)representation, but also ideology, the nature of the magazines, and the related expectations of the journalists. Her exceptional social position was variously interpreted. The article finds that the innovative characteristics of the figure of the Yugoslav New Woman were not intentionally utilized to make the first lady into the leading female comrade. Instead, a fusion of traditional and revolutionary interpretations located her at the crossroads of tradition and emancipation.
Spotlight on Romania
The founding of the Little Entente of Women (LEW) in 1923 provided new opportunities for feminists from member and aspiring countries to work together toward common goals for women’s rights in those states. As they forged transnational bridges and built friendships across borders, the feminists of the LEW articulated a vision of progress deeply rooted in ethno-nationalism and racialized rhetoric. In this article I reflect primarily on the verbal rhetoric and visual symbols used by representatives of these countries in the first two gatherings of the network. Their empathy seems to have extended predominantly to the ethnic majorities represented in the group. Even as they spoke for women in general as a category, many understood each other to be speaking on behalf of specific ethnic and racial groups. The narrowness of this vision undercut the effectiveness of the work the LEW undertook and the goals it aspired to achieve.