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O Agonas tis Gynaikas (Women's Struggle) Magazine


Women's Struggle: An old fashioned title for a modern feminist magazine

By Xanthi Petrinioti*

The magazine O Agonas tis Gynaikas (Women's Struggle) is the longest - surviving feminist periodical publication in Greece (and possibly in Europe). The first issue circulated as a monthly bulletin of the Greek League for Women's Rights in August - September 1923. On its cover page, under the title, it was written in bold lettering and in demotic Greek: "We demand the same political, civil and economic rights for women and men".

The current (bi-annual) issue (No. 80) of the magazine's third period of publication will circulate in June 2006. During these 82 years its publication ceased twice, in 1936 and in 1967, closely following the vicissitudes of Greek political history. June 1936 was the date of the last issue of this first period of the magazine's publication, that of the inter-war years. That is, the period from 1920 when the League for Women's Rights was founded by Avra Theodoropoulou and Maria Negreponti and the participation of Maria Svolou, Rosa Imvrioti and Elleni Korrylou (better known under the pen name Alkis Thryllos) until it was closed down by order of the Police and its archives seized, on August 5, 1936, one day after the establishment of the Metaxa dictatorship.

During this first period (1920-36) of radical feminism, the League had published over 190 issues of the magazine, the frequency of publication varying from 6 per annum (during the period 1932-36) to about 24 per annum during years when the League's activities (public meetings, resolutions, submission of reports, petitions to government officials and political party leaders) reached a peak in concerted efforts to secure voting rights for Greek women.
The League's publication was not the first women's magazine with feminist aspirations. It was preceded by the magazine I Efimeris ton Kyrion (The Ladies' Journal) published by Kallirhoe Parrin in 1887 and by the (monthly) bulletin Ellinis (Greek woman), the official publication of the National Council of Greek Women (an umbrella organization uniting several women's groups), which was published from 1921 to 1940.

The founding of the League in 1920 represented, however, a break with the many women's organizations operating already in Greece which were devoted to welfare work and educational or cultural activities, because the League was the first exclusively feminist organization established in Greece with a definitive agenda to attain economic, civil and, above all, political rights for women. The name chosen for the organization is revealing in itself: it boldly states women's rights in the title going beyond the title of the "parent" organization the International Women's Suffrage Alliance (IWSA). The motto of the IWSA "Equal Rights - Equal Responsibilities" became the motto of the League and shaped the League's positions on several controversial issues bringing it, occasionally, in opposition with the stands adopted by other organizations including the socialists (Sosialistikos Omilos Gynaikon), the General Confederation of Greek Workers and some unions of women professional workers over the need for protective legislation for women's labour.

The magazine was a forum of discussion of the appropriate means to achieve the prime goal set by the radical feminists for the 1920s, i.e. voting rights, but also for other issues which had become pressing: women's professional work rights (entry into the professions and the trades, the right to professional advancement, equal pay), the revision of the archaic family law which left wives and mothers with less than minors' rights, the abolition of the abhorrent system of state (police) regulation of prostitution and of trafficking, and, interestingly, a concern for what we would call today confidence building measures for the better understanding between the peoples of Europe -especially the strife-torn Balkans, and for conflict resolution by diplomatic means. As for the latter, the League took the initiative in the creation of a women's forum to discuss contentious international issues. During the 9th Congress of the IWSA, held in Rome in 1923, the representatives from Poland, Romania, Serbia, Czechoslovakia and Greece (represented by the League, the National Council of Greek Women and the Lyceum of Greek Women) set up the Women's Little Entente. The Little Entente held several congresses one of which (the third) was held in Athens in 1925.

Feminist action undertaken by the League (and propagated by the magazine) during this period was shaped by the consciousness that women had to become active themselves and to strive, through collective action, unity of purpose and boldness of voice, to change their social status. This was a definite break with the past and merited the attribution of "radical feminism' for the League. However there were inherent weaknesses in the movement the key one probably being that the leaders of the League did not realize early on the limits of liberal democracy and the political system in so far as the granting of women's rights were concerned and that feminist consciousness raising was a Herculean task at that time. Finally, the unity of purpose advocated by the League was achieved only partly as the close collaboration with organizations of different strands of feminism was never easy and at times became impossible. Towards the beginning of the 1930s, there was evidence of an emerging split between the League, the socialist women's groups (which derided the emphasis on voting rights as bourgeois concerns) and the conservative women's groups retrenching to the less political issues of education and social welfare.

After the end of the Second World War, the League tried to reorganize itself. As early as 1945 the League organized a committee comprised of representatives of key women's organizations, which appealed to political leaders to place voting rights for women on the political agenda. The timing was not auspicious. The conservative government in power was loath to reopen the discussion on women's voting rights. This time however, pressure originated from without: The United Nations (whose San Francisco Declaration in 1945 was signed by Greece) and its Committee for Women's Rights. Greece's representative to the Committee Lina Tsaldari, signed in 1951, the International Convention on Women's Political Rights which added pressure on the Greek government to introduce to Parliament a Bill (2151/1952) giving full political rights to women. The Bill was passed with 72 MPs voting for it, 64 against and 3 abstaining thus ending a battle begun 32 years earlier. Women first voted in the 1956 national parliamentary elections.

The Governing Board of the League decided to publish the magazine again in 1964, several years after the League started operating again. The editing was entrusted to Alice Yotopoulos - Marangopoulos who also acted as Vice-President. During this second period of publication the magazine only published 14 issues, the last one being the one dated November-February 1967. Two months later, on April 21, came the Colonel's coup. The League decided to suspend publication of Women's Struggle given the fact that press censorship had been imposed.

Following the restoration of democratic rule in 1974, the League once again gathered its forces for the upcoming battle to insert 'a gender dimension" in the redemocratization and modernization process. There was a great deal of unfinished business left from the previous eras. Only voting rights had been secured but legal and institutional reforms in all areas were sorely needed.
In the first issue (January 1979) of the third period of publication of the magazine, which kept its original "battle cry" title, the League's president, Alice Yotopoulos-Marangopoulos wrote in the editorial page: " The Struggle continues". If we compare our times with those when the magazine first made its appearance, the change is tremendous. The then "scandalous" demands (for women's rights) are now part of the programme of the United Nations or they have already been fulfilled." The League felt that the magazine would again serve a purpose since now, there was, at last, a women's movement in Greece with many organizations and several publications (albeit some of them attached to political parties).
The League felt that the new (1975) Constitution's provision that women and men are equal and the deadline, set for 1982 to revamp all laws not conforming to gender equality, offered a golden opportunity to bring about change and there was a lot of work to be done. Nothing could be closer to the truth! Issue after issue of Women's Struggle selected, analyzed and prescribed solutions to the multitude of problems which had accumulated over the decades: Family law reform, civil marriage, divorce, abolition of the dowry, family planning, decriminalization of abortions, reproductive freedom, recognition of children born out of wedlock, labour law reform, equal pay for equal work, abolition of legal obstacles to entry into the professions, equal training opportunities for women, new technologies at work and women's unemployment, pension reform, sexual harassment at the workplace, gender stereotyping in job advertising, parental leave for both parents, penal code reform, (violence against women, rape, trafficking, prostitution), women and politics (representation of women in elected bodies-local, national and European), the adoption of a quota system in electoral systems, developments internationally and in Europe (culminating with efforts by women's organizations to place equality "in particular equality between men and women" in the article on Union values of the new European Constitution).

For the greater length of this period of publication (i.e. from Jan 1979 to the January-June issue of 1999) Rena Lampsa was the magazine's editor creating some of its more symbolically potent and aesthetically innovative covers. The magazine was published either on a quarterly or a biannual basis for most of this period, with a more modern layout, photos, colourful covers, many standard columns and an extensive summary of its contents in English. The 79 issues of Women's Struggle published since 1979 provide the reader with an invaluable insight into the modern Greek feminist movement. Together with the older issues from the 1920s and 1930s and those from the 1960s, they offer a rare kaleidoscope of the tumultuous history of Greek feminism in the 20th century.

Athens, April 27, 2006
*Professor Xanthi Petrinioti was an occasional contributor to Women's Struggle since 1979 and the magazine's Editor during 2000-2007.


Timerange, Issue-nr, ...: 
Language of project: 
Greek and English
Grassroots media in Europe