Female charity societies and the spread and transfer of social knowledge (Bulgaria)

Women’s societies were a consequence of the development of secondary female education and the formation of literate Bulgarian women. The process of their creation was different from the Western European, because in Bulgaria the female education preceded feminism. The first society was founded in town of Lom in 1856/1857 for the purpose of educating girls. Since 1869 women’s’ societies emerged in Targovishte, Tarnovo, Kalofer, Tulcha, Svishtov, Rousse and others. Educated women, usually local teachers, leaded them. They tried to make a women’s network. At the end of the 1870s, the number of female companies was 61, and there were 7 girls’societies too.

Women’s Charity Society in Lom


The Majka (Mother) Women’s Charity Society was founded in 1869 in Sofia by the donor Yordanka Filaretova and the teacher Baba Nedelya Petkova. Its main task was to raise funds to support the development and upbringing of young girls: to help women’s housekeeping education, to prepare teachers in the various branches of the economy, to decide on issues of vocational education, to make contacts with schools and persons, organizations and socieities in the field of vocational education.

Since the end of the 19th century, the Charity Society had been managed by well known public figures – the teacher and journalist Ekaterina Karavelova and the donor Rada Bourmova-Daneva. They attracted in the Board the Sofia female elite, capable of raising funds for charitable purposes: experienced teachers related to the problems of the female vocational education, or public figures who had chosen charity as their own task, such as Mania Girginova, Dr. Elena Ganeva-Stoyanova, Rayna Rumenova, Vassilka Kerteva, Elena Chakalova, Maria Zlatooustova, Mara Vassileva, Rayna Batchvarova and others.

Women’s Charity Society Majka (Mother), 1922

In 1893 the Charity Society founded the first vocational women’s school in Bulgaria – the Princess Marie Loiuse Vocational School. It had to serve poor girls and orphans. Until the 1940s, thousands of pupils from Sofia and the country were trained there in cooking, sewing and housekeeping.

According the Majka (Mother) Society girl’s education was a mean of cultural upbringing and economic emancipation. When graduating from school, many poor girls got a job and could earn and support their families with work, avoiding prostitution. Education at the Princess Marie Loiuse Vocational School contributed to the formation of professionals involved in the arts industry. They transformed traditional crafts into modern manufactoring, industry, or art. As owners of tailor’s workshops and haberdashery shops, they became foundations of Bulgarian fashion and in the following years they published textbooks, patterns in so called domestic magazines, prepared exhibitions. The first lecturers at the Vocational School brought from Vienna, Brussels and Geneva cultural models and skills that they conveyed to their pupils. They motivated them as future teachers and professionals to applicate embroidery in the clothing and interior, to translate and write textbooks, to make albums and to organize exhibitions. After the First World War, the pupils created the domestic press. Their articles, recipes and patterns were the basis for transferring cultural influences from the city to the village. With their overall activity, the graduates of the Vocational School become agents of social modernization.

Princess Marie Loiuse Vocational School