T. G. Masaryk pp 114-128 | Cite as

Defender of Women’s Rights

  • H. Gordon Skilling
Part of the St Antony’s/Macmillan Series book series


Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was preeminent among men in Bohemia in the late nineteenth century as an advocate of women’s rights.’l Masaryk spoke out boldly and in radical tones against the enslavement of women in all spheres of life, including the home and family. In speeches and articles, and in his journal, Nasě doba, he hammered away at what he considered false beliefs about the inequality of women and criticized unjust limitations on women’s place in society. In a manner which endorsed the major claims of the contemporary women’s movement and anticipated many of the demands of the feminist movement of the future, he called for absolute equality for women in all spheres — equal responsibility of men and women within the family, equal access to education and the professions, equal pay for equal work, the enfranchisement of women, and full participation of women in public affairs. He condemned prostitution and what he called ‘polygyny’ (mnohoženství), i.e. sexual relations with more than one wife or with several women. He was severely critical of prevalent views about the nature of love and of sex expounded both by official Catholic doctrine and by socialist theory, which, he felt, demeaned women and distorted love and marriage. He also condemned ideas expressed in modern literature, which encouraged sexual laxity. Alois Hajn, active in contemporary Czech progressive politics, later described him as ‘a pioneer of the ideas on the women’s question’ whose words created ‘a veritable revolution among Czech youth’ at the time.2


Public Affair Woman Writer Absolute Equality Illegitimate Birth Sexual Instinct 
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  1. 1.
    See the important article by Maria L. Neudorfl, ‘Masaryk and the Woman’s Question’, T. G. Masaryk (1850–1937) (New York, 1989) I, Thinker and Politician, ed. Stanley B. Winters, p. 258.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hajn, ‘Masaryk a ženská otázka’, Osvěta lidu, on the 70th anniversary of Masaryk’s birth, published in F. F. Plamínková, Masaryk a ženy, (Prague, 1930), pp. 249–50.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See also Tereza Nováková, Ze ženského hnutí (Prague, n.d., circa 1912), espec. pp. 84–5, 244, 315–20.Google Scholar
  4. Stanislav Polák, Charlotte Garrigue Masaryková (Prague, 1992).Google Scholar
  5. A biography by I. J. Fischerová, Charley Garrigue-Masaryková (Prague, 1936) is informative but eulogistic.Google Scholar
  6. On Charlotte Masaryk and her relations with Masaryk, see also Zdeněk Nejedlý, T. G. Masaryk, (5 vols, Prague, 1930–37), I, part 2, pp. 351–82; II, pp. 26–30;Google Scholar
  7. Vojtech Lev, Pamatce Ch. G. Masarykové (Prague, 1923);Google Scholar
  8. Jozef Laichter, T. G. Masaryk doma i veřejnost (Prague, 1938), II, pp. 91–129.Google Scholar
  9. 5.
    Čapek, Hovory s T. G. Masarykem (Prague, 1937), pp. 8, 74.Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    Jozef J. Filipi, S Masarykov’ymi, first vzpomínek (Prague, 1947), p. 25.Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    cited by Zdeněk Franta, ed., Morální názory (2nd. edn, Prague, 1925), pp. 136–8.Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    Herben, Masarykův rodinný život (7th edn, Prague, 1937), pp. 23, 64.Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    Alice G. Masaryková, Dětství a mladí (Pittsburgh, 1960), pp. 87–97;Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    Ruth Crawford Mitchell, Alice Garrigue Masaryk (Pittsburgh, 1980), pp. 83–4.Google Scholar
  15. See also Charlotte G. Masaryková, Listy do věžení (Prague, 1948), pp. 68–9.Google Scholar
  16. 14.
    (Davenport, Too Strong for Fantasy, New York, 1967, pp. 317–23).Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    also given in V. K. Škrach (ed.), Masarykův sbornik (Prague, 1926–27), II, pp. 241ff.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    see also Masaryk, Otázka sociální (Prague, 1948), II, 92.Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    See Masaryk, Suicide and the Meaning of Civilization (Chicago and London, 1970), pp. 25–7.Google Scholar
  20. 22.
    Masaryk, Humanitní idealý, (Prague, 1968), pp. 57–8.Google Scholar
  21. 32.
    Masaryk, O etice a alkoholismu (Prague, 1912), pp. 18–20);Google Scholar
  22. Masaryk, O alkoholismu (Prague, 1908), pp. 16–18.Google Scholar
  23. 36.
    For a full text of the articles on Musset and Goethe, see Masaryk, Modern Man and Religion (London, 1938), pp. 218–55, 256–86 resp.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© H. Gordon Skilling 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Gordon Skilling
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TorontoCanada

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