On this day in 1942: A Czech feminist and suffrage activist is executed in Prague

For many women, the struggles that Plamínková fought for are still relevant today; this year marks 80 years since her death.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 30.06.2022 15:43:00 (updated on 01.07.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Today in Prague senators led by Miloš Vystrčil gathered at a plaque in the Senate headquarters to honor the memory of Františka Plamínková the Czech politician and women’s rights advocate who fought for women to have the right to vote since 1920.

On this day in 1942, Plamínková was executed by the Nazis at the age of 67 as part of the Czech resistance, ending her life but not her legacy which included promoting women’s right to vote and the abolition of the compulsory single status for female teachers.

This year marks 80 years since her death. And for many women, the struggles that Plamínková fought for are very much relevant today. But her leadership advanced the career potential of mothers who hoped to merge professional and family life. She also blazed trails for the involvement of women in politics and pointed out discrimination in the labor market as well as the unfair division of labor between partners in the household.

When Plamínková was born in 1875, Czechoslovakia was engulfed in a debate on women's role in society. By the time Plamínková began her teaching career this heated cultural discussion had reached a boiling point and she didn't hesitate to fan the flames (after all her nickname Plamka or "a small flame," spoke to the way in which she stoked the embers for Czech women's suffrage with fiery debates.)

Plamínková began teaching in 1894 at the elementary school in Tábor and then taught for the last six months of the year in Soběslav. Moving back to Prague in 1895, she completed her teaching internship in 1900 and joined the Association of Czech Teachers. Her biographer Eva Uhrová described the situation for women in the late 19th century:

AGENCY PROPERTIES

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 40m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 40m2

Benediktská, Praha 1 - Staré Město

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 49m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 49m2

Dlouhá, Praha 1 - Staré Město

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 49m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 49m2

Dlouhá, Praha 1 - Staré Město

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 55m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 55m2

Vinohradská, Praha 3 - Vinohrady

"At that time, it was obligatory for women teachers to remain single and Františka Plamínková had to decide whether to teach or to marry and have children. She chose the first option. She succeeded in promoting women’s right to vote and the abolition of the compulsory single status for women teachers – but to start with, she had had to persuade a number of her colleagues. The law, however, was one thing and its application another."

Františka Plamínková / photo Wikipedia Commons
Františka Plamínková / photo Wikipedia Commons

The new Czechoslovak constitution was only the beginning of the struggle for the state to create conditions in which women would be allowed to combine profession and family. For example, only male lawyers were invited to write the Family Act, and since the state did not want to pay for the then three-month maternity leave, women were often dismissed from work shortly after marriage.

As the national movement for Czechoslovakian independence heated up, Plamínková's contributions toward women's rights were echoed in her fight against fascism, and for the liberation of her nation. Eight years after her death in 1942, she was awarded the Czechoslovak Order of the Gold Star by the Czech Ministry of National Defense.

Plamínková joined the Czech National Socialist Party in 1918, which she represented at the Prague City Hall (1918–1925) and later in the Senate (1925–1939). In 1938 she wrote an open letter to Adolf Hitler, responding to his accusation that Czechoslovak President, Edvard Beneš, had lied.

After March 1939, she refused to remain abroad because, although she had received a passport and left legally to visit Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, she wanted to remain in her homeland in solidarity. Two weeks after Heydrich’s assassination, she was arrested by the Nazis and shot on June 30 at the Kobylisy rifle range.

Today a school in Prague 7 bears her name and is part of the Peace Trail project. She is considered by many historians to be one of the most important figures of the international women's movement, the greatest women's rights activist, and the greatest democrat of the 20th century.

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