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Ramona Mihaila

Silent Voices of 19th-century Romanian Women Writers


A comparative research of the woman’s situation in different European societies as well as in the American society is based on the observation that the political and historical events which took place in the 19th century – the French Revolution (at the end of the 18th century), the Union between Romanian Principalities, Moldavia and Wallachia (1859), the Civil War in America (1861-1865) – opened a new way for important social, economic and cultural changes which created realism in literature. Therefore, the representations that defined the emancipated woman changed. The women writers explored the changes of the traditional women's roles, especially in those of lover, mother, and also in the qualities that women must prove in order to be considered “successfully”, such as purity, kindness, domestic abilities and obedience (Barbara Welter). It is important to observe that, starting 1880, the New Woman changed – in theory and in reality – the canons of the French, English, American and even the Romanian literature, influencing the lives of the writers and strengthening the literature with feminine characters, as well as with new forms and themes.

The promotion of women as writers 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 in 1858 under the pseudonym Doamna L (Maria Movila) – Omul muntelui (The Man of the Mountain). Other women writers also used pen names: Dora d’Istria (Elena Ghica), Smara (Smaranda Gheorghiu) and Carmen Sylva (Queen Elisabeta). When Queen Elisabeta wrote together with Mite Kremnitz, they used the pseudonyms Dito and Item for novels such as Din dou? lumi (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 women translators: Catica Faca (Jeanne Louise Henriette Campan, De l'Education, 1834), Catinca Sambotencu (Lesage, Le diable boiteux, 1835), Ecaterina Asachi (Goldoni, Storia della Grecia, 1842), Ermiona Asachi (Silvio Pellico, Dei doveri degli uomini, 1843). The first literary criticism attempt belongs to Iulia Aricescu, with the monographic work Opera ?i via?a Doamnei Sophia Chrisoscoleu, n?scut? Cocea (The Works and Life of Mrs. Sophia Chrisoscoleu, born Cocea) (1862). Impresii literare (Literary Impressions) (1908), written by Izabela Sadoveanu-Evan is another notable work of literary criticism.

The present article focuses not only on the writings of canonical writers (Sofia Nadejde) but also on a number of writers who were neglected by critics, like Eugenia Ianculescu de Reuss, Constanta Hodos, Bucura Dumbrav?, Emilia Lungu, Adela Xenopol, Constanta Marino-Moscu, Smaranda Gheorghiu; or who wrote their work in foreign languages, for example: Martha Bibesco, Elena V?c?resco, Dora d’Istria; or the queens, Elisabeta (Carmen Sylva) and Maria of Romania.

AsK, September 2012

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