Lack of property rights, inferiority and total submission to a man, non-recognition of the right to work and guardianship over one’s own child, the impossibility of divorce and the lack of maternity leave – are just a few aspects that characterized the woman of the nineteenth century. But how far could this “feminine instrumentalization” and the treatment of women as a life-giving and sustaining tool of the household continue?
A strong voice for the social and political emancipation of women
In the late 1800s, strong and extremely courageous voices appeared, promoting equal rights. The cult of domesticity, promoted at that time, is increasingly being questioned, with early feminists promoting totally different concepts from its predecessors, being willing to fight and change gender norms, even at the cost of harsh criticism or own freedom.
An emblematic and remarkable figure for her work at the time was Sofia Nădejde, a prominent voice in nineteenth-century feminism.
Originally from a small family of peasants from Botoșani, the prose writer, publicist and playwright Sofia Nădejde is the first woman in Romania who is allowed to attend higher education and who manages to enroll in a high school exclusively for boys. Moreover, she is the first woman to run a literary magazine (“Literary Event” 1893)) and the author of the first feminist novel, entitled “Passion” (1903), a novel in which she describes in detail the sufferings of women in those times and which wins the Universul magazine award for best novel.
Sofia Nădejde – the leader of the feminist movement
Sofia Nădejde stands out, for the first time, by publishing an article in a feminist newspaper “Romanian Woman” (1881), supporting the struggle of women for civil rights. He also writes a series of articles in Contemporanul magazine, in which he claims the freedoms and rights of women and emphasizes the changes in the society of his times: „… We started to take more seriously our position, education, purpose, our role in society; we began to be curious about the position of women in other countries, how they work to improve their condition. “
Through her articles, Sofia Nădejde supports the importance of an efficient health system, the integration of women in the workplace and women’s rights to education. In a reality in which women’s education was based solely on the moral values of Christianity, it provides solid arguments, justified by the fact that girls must have a higher education in order to be competent mothers to educate “sons of the nation.” Advocates against the subjugation of women to men, arguing that as long as women do not claim their rights and men do not recognize gender equality, things will remain the same: “Few will be for the woman’s freedom as long as they can say she is not complaining. In this way, the man retains an unjust privilege for a long time. “
She is the voice of all the women of her time and does not shy away from defending them, entering into controversy even with the great personalities of the time. Such an example is represented by the harsh comments made against Titu Maiorescu’s statements, in an article published in the newspaper România Libera (1882), remaining in history as “the woman who scolded Titu Maioerscu”. Thus, in this article, Sofia Nădejde expresses her revolt against the statements of the literary critic on the topic of genetic and intellectual inferiority of women.
In his speech on “Darwinism in intellectual progress”, Titu Maiorescu stated: “How can we really entrust the fate of peoples to beings whose skull capacity is ten percent less?” I can barely reach the most developed brains today to be able to lead a nation on the path of material progress and prosperity. ” and that “A woman is incapable of development, no matter how hard she tries to develop her intelligence, she will not succeed; in fact, over time, she gets drunk and tends to be an idiot. ”, and Sofia Nădejde did not hesitate to answer, in an article entitled “Mr. Maiorescu’s answer to the question of women’s brains”, published in the newspaper România Libera (1882): “If intelligence is the function of gray matter, then no conclusion can be drawn based on the weight of the brain, because the weight of gray matter should be taken into account. But weight is not the best measure: the quality of gray matter, the number of cells and their poles and their ramifications should be the measure of intelligence. “, and “If we are to judge intelligence by the weight of the brain, then we should say that some birds that have a harder brain than the body are smarter than humans.” distinguished by her solid and sharp arguments.
Another interesting topic that the author addresses is that of marriage, which is equivalent to the concept of “business”, in which the woman is considered a commodity: “According to us, marriage is just a business where the commodity is the woman; and indeed we do not call commodities anything that comes on the social market can be exchanged for something else, let alone money, to speak more generally. That’s exactly what marriage is all about. ” While, in her view, marriage must be based on equality and mutual respect, because: “The moral rebirth of mankind will not begin in full force until the most basic social relationship is put on an equal footing and when the members of mankind recognize that the being for whom they have the greatest sympathy must have the same rights and the same rights. light like them ”.
However, Sofia Nădejde is not limited to her writings. Thus, she organizes public meetings with working class women, and in 1897 she was elected president of the Fourth Congress of the PSMDR, during which the theme of universal suffrage, the organization of trade unions and the peasant issue were addressed.
Sofia Nădejde passed away on June 18, 1946, at the age of 90, but she passed on her revolutionary ideas both to her children (her daughter Elena Nădejde is one of the first women doctors in Romania) and to society as a whole, and remains known as most cultured Romanian of her time.
As Constantin Noica stated: “Romanian culture is not made up of works, but is made up of personalities and biographies”, and Sofia Nădejde is an exemplary personality who deserves to be discovered and read.
The novel “Patimi” was published by Publisol Publishing House. You can order it online, at a price of about 15 lei.
Photo: the portrait of Sofia Nădejde, made by her brother, the painter Octav Băncilă