Marica Strnad – a singer and publicist who abandoned traditional ideas on the social role of women

Marica Strnad was born on 9 September 1872 in Šmarje pri Jelšah. From 1887 to 1891, she attended the college in Ljubljana. Afterwards, she started to work as a teacher at the school for girls in Šentjur. She stayed there until 1895, when she was transferred to the public school in Kremberg. In 1897, she was transferred to the school in Sv. Jakob (today: Spodnji Jakobski Dol) in the Slovene Hills, where she met the chaplain Alojza Cizerlja, who started his service there in the same year as she. They started a relationship that was not approved by the society. Therefore, they moved to Russia in 1899 via Paris. In Russia, they converted to Orthodox Church and got married. They worked as teachers at the German secondary school in Kišinjev.

After a while, Alojz started to feel homesick, left his family and returned to his estate in Haloze in 1905. He died in 1911 and the estate was inherited by Marica, who gave it to her juvenile son in 1915. Marica stayed in Russia until 1920, but has kept the contact with her home country: she corresponded with Aškerc and has many times returned home during the holidays. She has learnt French, English and Romanian in Russia and has survived both revolutions. After her return to Slovenia, she has worked as a teacher at the primary school in Sv. Barbara in Haloze and retired after three years.

Then, she moved to Maribor together with her colleague, professor Ervina Ropas, where they shared a common household. After the German occupation of Maribor and the beginning of World War II Marica moved to her son’s estate in Haloze. In 1945, she joined Ervina Ropas again; this time in Novo mesto. After her son died in 1949, she was getting weaker and weaker too, and died there on 30 December 1953. The newspaper Dolenjski list wrote about her death on 8 January 1954: “On New Year’s day, a small number of acquaintances and people from Novo mesto accompanied Marica Strnad-Cizerlj, the 82 year old poet, teacher and once well-known public worker, to the cemetery in Šmihelj. She came to Novo mesto after liberation and has spent her last years with her friend Ervina Ropas in peace and tranquillity. Even most citizens of Novo mesto have not known that she has lived here.”

Marica Strnad began to write poems at the college and published them from 1892 to 1908 in the newspapers Ljubljanski zvon, Vesna, Slovenski narod, Slovenski svet, Slovenka, Slovenska gospodinja and Popotnik. She has used many pseudonyms, among others Alenčica, Alenka, Breda, Danica, Marica, Marica II, Šmarska etc. Her poems were written under the influence of Josip Stritar, Simon Gregorčič and Anton Aškerc. After 1908, the life abroad has completely restrained her from the Slovenian literature and she wrote poems in French, German and Russian only for herself. As she had returned from Russia, she published her collection of poems Rdeči nageljčki in 1927, with which contributed “her ear to the modest harvest of the Slovene women poetry” (Dolenjski list, 8 1 1954). The poems follow a simple idea and form, the reader can feel the influence of folk songs, and they are full of home country and love feelings and - most of all - the lyrical side of the strong female personality. Some poems were set to music by Gustav and Josip Ipavec.

Marica published her first literary polemical articles in 1893 in the magazine Popotnik, and this nation-aware, decisive and self-willed author began to write activist contributions in 1895. She joined the women’s association, wrote prose, ideological and educational articles, presented freethinking and radical perspectives on the issue of women, many times based on foreign sources. She stood up for the equality of women in teaching and took up a nationalist approach to marriage. She advocated national marriages between Slovenes and called upon establishing of women associations.

The following statement, with which she argumented her pseudonym Marica II, is typical of her work: “I have always written ‘Strnadova’, but if this implies the submissiveness to men, I shall not sign with this name any more, even if such formulation is based on the Bible. God did not create a woman from Adam’s leg to be trampled on, neither from his head - thus, a woman should not praise herself to be above the man; God has created a woman from Adam’s rib - a rib close to the heart - so that a woman is a man’s companion and not his subordinate servant.” (Slovenski svet 1897, . 138.)

In her private and public, artistic and activist life, Marica Strnad has shown that she was a member of the new generation of Slovenian women who developed their self-confidence - with help of pedagogic education - to the extent that they were willing to stand for their rights in contrast to the traditional beliefs on the social role of women and to equally stand alongside their male colleagues.

 

Bibliography:

Ob smrti Marice Strnad-Cizerijeve. Dolenjski list, 8 1 1954, No. 1., p. 4 (http://www.dolenjskilist.si/media/arhiv-pdf/dl/1954/DL_1954_01_08_01_0200.pdf, accessed on 25th 7 2017).