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Ukrainian women who changed the world forever

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Ukrainian women who changed the world forever

Every year on May 30, the world celebrates Women's Emancipation Day. We are telling you about Ukrainian women who fought for justice and achieved significant success

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On May 30, the world celebrates Women's Emancipation Day. On this day, it is worth remembering the contribution of women who fought for equal rights and shaped society as it is today.


The struggle for equality with men took place not only in Europe and the United States. We shouldn't forget about prominent Ukrainian women, who proved by their actions that they are just as talented and brave. Read about who led the feminist movement in Ukraine and consolidated the role of women.


Women's Emancipation Day: a little history


The term "emancipation" means equality for women in all areas of life: from family life to education and employment. In fact, this concept is quite broad, as it implies the abolition of any restrictions and liberation from dependence on men.


Emancipated women have access to education, receive equal salaries with men, vote in elections, and can be elected to public office.


There are two theories of the origin of Women's Emancipation Day. According to the first, Joan of Arc was burned on this day in 1431. The other claims that in 1932, Germany passed a law on the legal status of women officials. It doesn't matter what event prompted the emergence of this day, the main thing is that people celebrate women's equality every year.


We would like to add that feminism has evolved from emancipation. However, this is a narrower concept that refers to the social and political movement to guarantee women all civil rights.


The birth of emancipation in Ukraine


Emancipation came to Ukraine from Austria-Hungary in the late nineteenth century. As this topic was raised in the press and cultural centers, a wave of discussion came to Galicia. It was there that the first circle of feminists emerged. 


Writers and poets played a significant role in the development of Ukrainian feminism: Lesia Ukrainka, Olha Kobylianska, Marko Vovchok, Olena Pchilka, Iryna Wilde, and Natalia Romanovych-Tkachenko. In their works, they raised this topic, spreading ideas among progressive Ukrainians.




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Founders of feminism


Historians consider Natalia Kobrynska, a writer and public figure, to be the first woman to defend the interests and freedoms of women in Ukraine. In her works, she expressed her personal public opinion, described the position of women in society, and suggested ways to improve it.


On December 8, 1884, Ms. Kobrynska organized a meeting of the Society of Russian Women in what is now Ivano-Frankivsk. Experts consider that day to be the birthday of the women's movement. Interestingly, in addition to the ideas of emancipation, the society advocated for the unity of Ukraine and work for the welfare of the people.


Along with Natalia Kobrynska, Olena Pchilka defended women's rights. Together with her friend, she worked on the almanac The First Wreath. It includes her story "Comrades," which depicts new modern women. Pchilka also called for women to be granted political and civil rights in the almanac. By the way, it was Olena Pchilka who became the first woman academician in Ukraine.


Olha Kobylianska was also at the source of emancipation. Her works describe the images of intelligent women who defend their rights. We meet such heroines in the stories "Valse melancoligue," "Niobe," "Through the Masonry," and "According to Situations."


Interestingly, the heroines usually come from the lower strata of society and suffer from social and family oppression. In her works, Kobylianska also addressed the problem of material dependence, which, unfortunately, still exists today.


Lesia Ukrainka also created strong heroines. From Mavka to Oksana from The Boyarinya, each of Lesya Ukrainka's characters personifies an acute social problem. Her characters are not omnipotent, they are vulnerable, but at the same time they overcome all difficulties.


Ukrainian women in science


Not only women writers promoted equal rights. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the historian Natalia Polonska-Vasylenko became a vivid example of an emancipated woman. She researched the history and archeology of Ukraine and promoted the idea of the independence of the Ukrainian historical process. During her life, Natalia wrote almost 200 scientific papers.


Valentyna Radzymowska developed biology in the twentieth century and became the founder of the Ukrainian school of physiologists and biochemists. She was repressed for her political activities and left Ukraine after her release.


Speaking of our contemporaries, it is worth mentioning Natalia Vynohrad, who is the head of the Department of Epidemiology at Lviv National Medical University and a WHO expert on responding to epidemic threats. Such achievements inspire the scientist and once again show that women are capable of achieving success on their own.


Yulia Bezvershenko is proof that women have a place in any profession. She was included in the list of TOP 20 Ukrainian Women in STEM because she works with mathematical methods applied to the problems of dynamics of quantum systems in external fields and control of quantum systems.


In the field of economics, Ella Libanova is the first and only member of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences in more than 100 years of its existence. Ella's main contribution to economic development is the creation of a methodology for measuring human development at the regional level. This approach is currently used by the State Statistics Service for calculations.


It is not possible to tell about all the outstanding Ukrainian women who fought for women's rights and continue to do so in one article. The main thing is to remember that a century ago, brave Ukrainian women united to ensure that every girl had equal rights with men and could freely express her opinion. 


Today, women continue to demonstrate their courage not only on the cultural and social front, but also on the battlefield. According to statistics from March 2023, more than 60,000 women serve in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Read more about the heroic deeds of Ukrainian women during the war here.




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