Discussions about the social roles of women and their participation in public life during 19 and 20th century in Bulgaria

The Section of Women Lawyers at the BAUW was formed in 1928. It turned into the biggest corporate organisation of the Bulgarian women’s elite, with about a hundred and fifty members during the 1940s. It built up structures in the country. The interest in it was great, particularly in the 1930s, because of the difficulties for women in Bulgaria to pursue a career in law. After graduation most of them never practised, while some became court clerks, employees in lawyers’ offices, functionaries in the legal departments of the ministries and banks and law teachers in business schools. Though some of them got promoted in their administrative career and appeared at court cases on behalf of their institutions, they could not exercise their profession due to a prohibition by the Bulgarian Supreme Lawyers’ Council. According to its rules, women lawyers could not practice as magistrates and lawyers: not having voting rights, they were not considered Bulgarian citizens in the juridical meaning of the word.

The Section of Women Lawyers directed its efforts towards a judicial dispute of the Lawyers’ Act and simultaneously sought political support for an amendment of the Legal Structure Act. After the establishment of the authoritarian regime in Bulgaria (1934), the Ministers of Justice refused to discuss this case with the BAUW. The Section then sought another strategy, namely demanding women’s suffrage. If they would become full citizens, women could also occupy positions in legislature. With this, another element of political feminism was introduced into the ideology of the BAUW.

Vera Zlatareva


The struggle for suffrage was a debt that has begun since the beginning of the 20th century and faced a strong resistance. In 1909, the National Education Act entitled women to be elected to school boards, but not to participate in the voting. The Bulgarian suffragists achieved partial success in 1937 when “women of legal marriage” were given the right to vote in the local elections, and in 1938 all women over 21 who belonged to the categories “married, divorced or widowed” were admitted to parliamentary elections (but not single married elderly women). The new Electoral Law, however, gave women the right to vote only, but not to be elected (i.e. they only receive an active suffrage).