Famous bulgarian feminists and their participation in the International Women organizations and congresses, especially in the International Association of the University Women

Right after the founding of the Bulgarian Women’s Union, its representatives established relations with international feminist organizations. On behalf of the Union, Jenny Bojilova-Patewa and Irina Sokerova took part in the congresses of the International Alliance of Women and the International Council of Women resp. in Amsterdam and Geneva in 1908. Thus the Bulgarian women’s movement first appeared on the international stage. In the interwar period, the Bulgarian Women’s Union Chairperson Dimitrana Ivanova was elected to the International Alliance of Women’s Board of Trustees in Istanbul (1935) and Copenhagen (1939). Series of lectures were given in Sofia (1938) by Elena Ramniceanu, a Romanian lawyer and member of the IWC.

Dimitrana Ivanova

In 1923 representatives of the Bulgarian section of the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom participated in the Little Entente of Women, which included representatives of the World War I winners: Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia and Greece. Alexandrina Cantacuzino (1876-1944) – leader of the Romanian women’s movement, founder and first president of the Little Entente of Women (1923), MP in the League of Nations (1929-1938), vice president of the IWC, but also member of the Romanian Association of University Women, visited Sofia in 1934.

In 1924 Ekaterina Karavelova attended as a Bulgarian delegate to the Congresses of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Washington (1924) and Dublin (1926), as well at the Summer school in Chicago (1925). In 1926 Camille Drouet of the French Section of WILPF and Secretary of the Central Office visited Bulgaria. In August-September 1930 the  WILPF Summer School was held in Bulgaria.

Ekaterina Karavelova on the US ship, 1924

In 1920-1930s the Bulgarian Association of University Women concentrated on its international connections. Ekaterina Zlatooustova, its Deputy Chairperson, attended the Council of the International Association of University Women in Brussels (1925), where Bulgaria became full member. In the next years Bulgarian delegates actively communicated with their colleagues abroad, both within the framework of the annual Councils and at the Conferences in Amsterdam (1926), Vienna (1927), Geneva (1929), Prague (1930), Boston (1931), Edinburgh (1933), Geneva (1933), and Stockholm (1939). They discussed the main issues university women were facing, such as appointment as lecturers in the universities, improvement of their scientific work, exchange of female doctors and high school teachers, access to trade, finances and industry, as well as broader issues of concern for contemporary women, such as compatibility of marriage and career, citizenship rights of married women, and the attitude of women intellectuals towards war. The available documents show that the Bulgarian delegates were esteemed because of their professional competence: Tatyana Kirkova was a member of the Commission for Intellectual Cooperation (1926-1932), and Zhivka Dragneva  – of the Commission for Education (1939).

Mutual visits also contributed to the intensification of international communication. The Chairlady of the IFUW, Ellen Gleditsch, Ms. Klem, Freda Bage (from the Australian Federation, a substitute delegate to the League of Nations), and Helen Schilizzi (from the Belgian Association of University Women) successfully delivered lectures in Sofia and met high officials and Ministers. On their part Bulgarian women were welcomed by the Associations in Italy, Switzerland and USA. The BAUW kept permanent correspondence with other national associations. It carried out negotiations with the French Association about the appointment of French women in Bulgarian secondary schools and about specialised courses taken by Bulgarian women in French universities. The BAUW also sought bibliographic information from the British Association, discussed publications of Bulgarian researchers in scientific magazines with the German Federation, and asked the Italian Federation and the American Association to facilitate the scientific work of Bulgarian women. The BAUW also established bilateral contacts with the Greek and the Yugoslav Associations and received an invitation for participation in the International Balkan Conference on rapprochement and co-operation in Belgrade in 1931. In 1939 the BAUW organised a visit by members of the Zagreb (Croatian) branch of the Yugoslav Association. All these contacts show the large-scale activities directed at the implementation of the main global objectives of the IFUW. The contribution of the BAUW in the improvement of the relations among the Balkan countries, which deteriorated in the 1920s and the 1930s, was of particular significance.

The BAUW not only kept in touch with the IFUW, but also corresponded with the International Bureau of Education in Geneva in relation to the implementation of its objectives, the right to freedom of education and individual progress. It also participated in the International Congress on Moral Education in Paris (1930). It also had a correspondence with the Secretariat of the League of Nations, with the International Codification Commission for the Nationality of Married Women, and with the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship. Unfortunately the content of this correspondence is not known. To better co-ordinate its work with institutions abroad that dealt with youth education, the BAUW initiated a National Committee uniting the Youth Red Cross, the Bulgarski uchitelski sujuz (Union of Bulgarian Teachers), the Bulgarian Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the University Association.