Prominent women of Ostrava

There were more of them than one might expect, and the public sphere would not be as it is known without them. We are talking about the prominent women of Ostrava and the Ostrava region, who changed the contemporary perception of the “gentle sex” and excelled in certain respects beyond their peers. We would like to introduce you to six women-intellectuals whose destinies intertwined roles as artists and activists.

In the second half of the 19th century, there were profound changes in the social status of women. Unlike previous periods, when their roles were primarily determined by the family environment, women gradually entered public life. Deepening education and penetrating traditionally “male” fields created a metaphorical pressure on established norms, which around 1900 began to slowly change in favor of a more equal representation of women and men across professions. Representatives of these “modern women” were more visible in public, engaged in politics, the arts, sports, some became economically independent of their families and men, or studied in fields previously forbidden to them.

1. Marie Matula

(1860–1909) 

Marie Matula, originally from Haná, came to Ostrava in 1883 with the idea of ​​instilling education in the poor Czech population, aiming for economic independence from local German capital. She focused primarily on young women and, with her women’s association Dobromila, founded the first industrial continuation school for girls in Moravská Ostrava in 1901. It was an innovative project for its time, which was attended by several thousand women from across the Ostrava region.

Although premature death prevented her from witnessing the flourishing of the Dobromila women’s association or the “golden age” of association schools, she is considered a pioneer of women’s education in the region. After 1918, the Dobromila association was able to build its own association house on Poděbradova Street. After World War II, the property passed into the city’s administration, and it still operates a kindergarten there today.

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2. Jožka Jabůrek

(1896–1942)

A native of the Ida mine colony, Jožka Jabůrek was a significant left-wing journalist and publicist whose life was fulfilled in the women’s concentration camp in Ravensbrück. After losing her loved ones and due to the modest circumstances in which she lived, she decided to move to Prague after 1918, where she became involved in the activities of the newly established Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ). Especially in the 1930s, during the economic crisis, she named social problems of the time in the weekly magazine Rozsévačka and criticized the official Czechoslovak domestic policy both in the publication and at the Prague City Hall.

She stood up against the domestic fascist movement, which proved fatal for her during the war. As one of the first women, she was imprisoned in Pankrác Prison and subsequently tortured to death in Ravensbrück.

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3. Ilse Weber

(1903–1944)

On the building of the post office on Šalounova Street, there is a memorial plaque dedicated to the Vítkovice native, Jewish writer, and composer Ilse Weberová, who considered herself a local patriot and nationalist. In February 1942, she was deported to Theresienstadt, where she worked selflessly as a children’s nurse (among other things, she composed and sang lullabies for imprisoned children) and continued her literary work in difficult conditions until she and the children were sent to the gas chamber at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Her poems and other texts from that time were saved thanks to a clever hiding place in the tool shed and are summarized in the publication “When Will Our Suffering End.”

Many of her songs and musical settings of verses from the Theresienstadt ghetto have become “folklorized” and are now part of the repertoire of many leading performers and choirs worldwide (especially famous are the lullaby “Wiegala” and the ballad “Ich wandre durch Theresienstadt”).

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4. Marie Stona & Helena
Scholz-Železná

(1861–1944)
a (1882–1974)

The lady of the manor, patroness, and German-writing author Marie Stona transformed the Trebovice chateau into a “Silesian Weimar,” an artistic salon where the intellectual elite of the region, as well as world personalities, gathered (for example, the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner or the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bertha von Suttner, visited here). While she is recognized as an author in Germany, Czech translations are lacking except for one exception. In the chateau garden, the sculptor’s studio, which she built for her daughter Helena Scholz, still stands to this day.

The globetrotter and, in her time, the most significant sculptress of our region often stayed in Rome, Paris, or Florence, yet she also realized reliefs for the Ostrava Municipal Theatre. She portrayed the Habsburg imperial family in Vienna, and in 1932, she depicted T. G. Masaryk, becoming his close friend. After the war, the Trebovice chateau was confiscated from her as a German (it was demolished in 1958), so she settled in the USA and later in Rome, where she passed away (she is also known as an Italian sculptress today).

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5. Helena Salich

(1895–1975) 

Sběratelka folkloru a malířka Helena Salichová byla první ženou
ze Slezska studující na pražské Akademii (byť neměla maturitu,
Max Švabinský ji přijal pro mimořádný talent). Jako jediná žena–malířka působila od roku 1926 také ve Spolku moravskoslezských výtvarných umělců. Kromě malby a grafiky ji fascinoval folklor, sesbírala kolem jednoho a půl tisíce lidových písní nejen z okolí rodných Kyjovic, ale i z Polanky, kde žila až do své smrti (k některým z nich napsal klavírní doprovod Leoš Janáček).

Dokumentovala místní lidové kroje, písně a pohádky, v její kronice slezského kraje Ze starých časů najdete úchvatná líčení Ostravska. Na konci druhé světové války iniciovala akci Budujeme Slezsko, v níž získávala peníze na obnovu válkou zničených měst. Její hrob se sochou Miroslava Rybičky se nachází na polaneckém hřbitově.

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6. Dolores Šavrda

(1938–2012)

During the normalization period, the apartment of the Šavrda couple in Zábřeh became a center of opposition movement in the Ostrava region, where signatories of Charter 77 and representatives of other independent initiatives regularly met. While the writer Jaromír Šavrda was imprisoned by the communist regime for copying banned books, Dolores Šavrdová continued, despite interrogations and threats from the StB, engaging in illegal activities. Despite the apartment being bugged, she provided a sanctuary for the opposition movement and supported her husband in resisting totalitarianism.

After Šavrda’s death (he passed away shortly before the fall of the communist regime due to health issues resulting from his imprisonment), Dolores took care of his legacy – the entire estate, including rare recordings from his time in prison, samizdat publications, and their correspondence, can now be found in the Ostrava City Archives. For her courage, she was posthumously awarded the Ostrava City Prize in 2012.

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editors / Ilona Rozehnalová, Martina Němcová
authors of the texts / Hana Krutílková, Gabriela Pelikánová, Ilona Rozehnalová
photographs / Archiv města Ostravy, Roman Polášek

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