The First Professional Women Historians  in Lithuania (1918-1940)


Valdas Selenis



The very first non-professional woman historian was Konstancija Skirmuntaitė (Skirmuntowna) (1885-1934). Her first work Dzieje Litwy (History of Lithuania) was published in Polish in 1886 (and in Lithuanian released in 1887 by USA émigrés). After the Declaration of Independence of Lithuania in 1918 till the Second World War were only 9 women historians. 8 of them were educated professionally at the universities of Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Lithuania (in Kaunas). Speaking in terms of social origin they came from families of aristocracy, intelligentsia and well-off farmers. In the university of Kaunas (the only one formal institution in that period) 79  men and 114 women studied history. In spite of this, as we can see, women composed a very small part of community of historians during interwar period (approximately 12 percents), 4 of them had gained Ph.D. degrees. The very first woman proffesional historian Marija Andziulytė-Ruginienė defended her Ph.d. thesis in 1923 in Fribourg. The only one woman lecturer and docent (associate professor) in the University of Kaunas was Marija Rudzinskaitė-Arcimavičienė, who had only master degree, which she received in 1910 at the University of Moscow.

Why women historians were so few in that period? Firstly, the main reason is dominant notion of Lithuanian society that women shouldn't compete with men in the field of public professions. Instead of this, women are to take care of their families and children. In fact, only one of women, mentioned above, was not married. Men, who held the chairs in the university didn't want to allow women to occupy their places. Considering all this, women historians had the only chance to work as a secondary school teachers instead of pursuing academic career.