After learning how few Romanian women are to be found in the high levels of politics and business nowadays – Romania-Insider.com wrote about it here, Guest Writer Mariana Ganea pursued the matter further back in history. She discovered that Romania has had, and still has, many great women, and that while a few of them are recognized all over the world, others are almost unknown. This week, she writes about the lives and works of five great Romanian women.
Ana Aslan was a Romanian biologist and doctor, the creator of the Gerovital H3 medication, which seemingly helped prevent premature aging and the physical effects of aging. She was born in 1897 in the city of Braila, an important port on the Danube in the historical region of Muntenia, Eastern Romania. In 1915 she took her degree in medical sciences and in 1949 she became the head of Romania’s Geriatric Institute, which was recognized by the World Health Organization. Through her career she treated many famous names of the 20th century, including J.F. Kennedy, Adenauer, Pablo Neruda, Salvador Dali, Charlie Chaplin, Aristotle Onassis, Charles De Gaulle and Marlene Dietrich. Her medicine and the Aslavital anti – aging treatment method made her famous all over the world and brought the Romanian state millions of dollars a year. She also developed an anti aging cosmetic line for skin, hair and eyes, made from natural plant extracts.Her research activity received many international distinctions, such as Cross of Merit – First Class of the Order of Merit (Germany, 1971 ), Cavalier de la Nouvelle Europe(Italy, 1973 ), Les Palmes Academiques (France, 1974 ), Honorary Foreign Citizen and Honorary Professor of Sciences,(Philippines, 1978 ), Member Honoris Causa Diploma of the Bohemo-Slovakian Society of Gerontology (1981 ) and Leon Bernard Prize, granted by the World Health Organization (1982 ). She is one of the many Romanian women known both to Romanians and to the rest of the world.
Sarmiza Bilcescu‘s name, on the other hand, is less known, at home and abroad. But she was the first female European lawyer with a PhD in Law. She was born in Bucharest in 1867. Despite facing a lot of barriers because she was a woman, she took her degree in 1887 and the PhD in Law in 1890 in Paris at the Faculty of Law. Her thesis was titled On the Legal Condition of the Mother. She was admitted to the bar of the Ilfov County ( the county that surrounds the capital Bucharest) but because of the social conditions of those times, she never practiced law. She also created a committee presided over by Queen Mary which in 1915, unsuccessfully campaigned in favor of offering supplementary education to women who were denied access to higher learning.
Hariclea Darclee’s name is most likely to known to many. Darclee (in picture) was one the most famous opera singers at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. She was born in 1860 in the city of Braila in a family of Greek origins, related on the maternal line to the aristocratic Mavrocordat family. She studied at Iasi ,in Eastern Romania – or the Moldavia region, which has always been an important cultural and academic center in Romania, and later at the Paris Conservatoire. She made her debut at the Paris Opera 1888 as Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust. In 1889, she replaced the famous Adelina Patti as Juliette in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, end a year later, Darclée scored a great success in her debut at La Scala in Milan as Chimène in Massenet’s Le Cid. After this success, she was immediately engaged by all the leading Italian theaters. Between 1893 and 1910 she appeared frequently in Moscow, St Petersburg, Lisbon, Barcelona, Madrid and Buenos Aires. She was very popular in Spain and South America, where she participated in many local premières of new operas by Puccini, Mascagni and Massenet. Among the many roles she portrayed were Gilda in Rigoletto, Ophelia in Hamlet, Valentine in The Huguenots, Violetta in La Traviatta, Desdemona in Othello, Mimì in La Bohème, Santuzza in Rustican Cavalleria, and, at the same time, she had the title roles in Manon Lescaut, Aida and Carmen. The last performance of her career was in 1918 at the Lyric Theatre in Milan as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. She was deeply admired by composers such Gounod and Verdi
Anna de Noailles – don’t be fooled by the name – was a Romanian – French writer who became the first women awarded with the French Legion of Honor, as well as the first to get accepted to the Belgian Royal Academy for French Language and Literature. She was Prince Grigore Brancoveanu’s daughter – Brancoveanu is one of the most famous ruler families in the historical region of Muntenia. Anna de Noailles was born in Paris in 1876. Her first poetry volume called Le Cœur Innombrable brought her the membership of the French Academy, which, in 1921, gave her the great award for literature. Anna de Noailles wrote three novels, an autobiography, and many collections of poetry. She had friendly relations with the intellectual, literary and artistic French elite of the day. She was admired by many famous writers such Proust, Cocteau, Colette, Valery, Gide and the great Rodin made her bust which today is exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The French high school in Bucharest was named after her.
Elisa Leonida Zamfirescu was a pioneering woman engineer. She was born in 1887 in the Moldavian city of Galati, in the historical region of Moldavia, in the Eastern part of Romania. After the School of Bridges and Roads in Bucharest rejected her application to study, she took her degree at the Techniques Royal Academy in Berlin in 1912. She was the manager of the Romanian Geology Institute laboratories and a physical and chemical sciences teacher.
This is the first in a planned series presenting famous Romanian women, which will present both the well-known and the largely unrecognized names from history.
By Mariana Ganea, Guest Writer