Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Gender and Power in 19th Century Romanian Women's Writing

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Gender and Power in 19th Century Romanian Women's Writing

Article excerpt

The latter half of the nineteenth century in Romania was a time of unprecedented change and emancipation for Romanian women in regard to political engagement, legal status, access to higher education, and their entrance into professional and public life. In addition, their visibility in the professional world of literature and arts enabled them to start forging a tradition of their own.

In the Romanian Principalities, the first women writers were initially known as journalists. After a while, some of them started to write poems and novels. The entry of women into the profession of writing in the Romanian society was a slow process that became clearer at the end of the 19th century. The first novel written by a woman was published under the pseudonym Doamna L (Maria Boucher Movila), Omul muntelui (The Man of the Mountains)3 (1858). In the 1960s there were a lot of debates concerning the authorship of this novel, some of the critics attributing it to the writer Vasile Urechia (1834-1901), others to the French-bom writer Maria Boucher Movilä (?-?), and the third ones concluded that both of the authors wrote the novel and chose a pen name to conceal this. It is assumed that they wrote together the short story Amelie Stefanesco (signed also Doamna L, and published in installments in the newspaper Zimbrul §i Vulturul, along the year of 1858),4 and later, the novel Les Sept montagnes {histoiire moldave), signed as Marie Movila and published in Paris in 1863. Other women writers also used pen names: Dora d'Istria (Princess Elena Ghica), Smara (Smaranda Gheorghiu) or Carmen Sylva (Elisabeta de Neuwied, Queen of Romania). When Queen Elisabeta wrote together with Mite Kremnitz, they both used the pseudonyms Dito and Item for novels such as From Two Worlds (1884) and Astra (1887), as well as for the volume Revenge and other Novels (1888).

Concomitantly there could also be mentioned some examples of first Romanian women translators: Catica Faca (Jeanne Louise Henriette Campan, Thoughts on Education, 1834), Catinca Sambotencu (Lesage, Le diable boiteux, 1835), Ermiona Asachi (Silvio Pelico, Dei doveri degli uomini, 1843), Sofia Cocea or Elena Bacaloglu (Carmen Sylva, Robia Peleçului, 1897).

The first literary criticism attempt belongs to Iulia Aricescu, with the monographic work Opera §i viafa Doamnei Sophia Chrisoscoleu, näscutä Cocea {The Work and Life of Mrs. Sophia Chrisoscoleu, born Cocea) (1862). Impresii liter are {Literary Impressions) (1908), written by Izabela Sadoveanu-Evan is another notable work of literary criticism. Märgärita Miller-Verghi and Ecaterina Sändulescu compiled an anthology Evolufia scrisului feminin in Romania {The Evolution of Women's Writing in Romania). Helene Vacaresco wrote the preface for the book Preuves d'amour (1914), written by Elena Bacaloglu, a volume that compiled the articles and the conference speeches she delivered while she lived in Italy, Elena Stratilescu wrote in 1913 the preface of the social study Femeia {The Woman) written by Maria C. Butureanu (1871-1919) while Carmen Sylva wrote the foreword for Bucura Dumbrava's novel Der Pandur, which was later translated by Elisa Brätianu (1921).

There were also folklore 'searchers' such as: Dora d'lstria, La Poésie populaire des Magyars (1870), Margarita Miller Verghi, Izvoade stramosesti {Old Romanian Folk Patterns) (1927), Elena Sevastos, Nunta la români: studiu istorico-etnografic comparativ {Wedding Customs in Romania: A Historic-Ethnographic Study) (1889) or Cälätoriii prin Jara Româneascâ {Voyages in Wallachia) and Cântece moldoveneçti {Moldavian Songs), both of them published in 1888. Elena Niculi(ä-Voronca, Studii in folclor (Studies on Folklore) (1903).

The numbers of women journalists began to rise toward the end of the nineteenth century, but as Deborah Chambers and Linda Steiner observe,

Male editors assumed that women could only write as women for and about women. Women entered a gendered public sphere, defined largely on men's terms. …

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