Female images and descriptions as promoted by local traditions and by travel notes of foreigners in 18 and 19 century

Traveling through the Bulgarian lands in 1860-1870 the Austrian-Hungarian Felix Kanitz painted many Bulgarian women. They were portrayed in their traditional lifestyle – in farm work, rose picking and animal husbandry. Rare images are in a festive atmosphere, as they are presented by Holiday Horo engraving. Perhaps this is due to the patriarchal stereotype that the home is their entire social space.

The great female travelers Adeline P. Irby and Georgina M. Mackenzie are writing in The Slavonic Provinces of Turkey-in-Europe (London and New York: Alexander Strahan, 1866) the following: Above all, natural affections find their due satisfaction; young women are preserved from temptation, and young men are certain of a comfortable and well-regulated home. The Bulgarians may thank their united family life if they have preserved at once their nationality and their purity of manners while living under the yoke of strangers, and often side by side with people the most depraved.

This was confirmed by the Czech teacher Vaclav Dobrusky (1858-1916), who arrived in Plovdiv in 1880. He had written: Bulgarian women come out of their homes only in special circumstances or obligations. The Bulgarian woman can be found mostly in her home where she is her true sanctuary.

The traditional image of the woman is also described in Bulgarian fiction from the late 19th century. In the comedy Krivo razbranata tsivilizatsia (Poorly understood civilization), one of Dobri Voynikov‘s characters listed things that his daughter should do: to get up early in the morning to wash her father’s shoes, sweep and clean the house, and make coffee.

Felix Philipp Kanitz. Bulgarian horo
Felix Philipp Kanitz. Suhindol
Felix Philipp Kanitz. Rose picker