The women who shaped Moldovan feminism, celebrated in illustrations

26 January 2022
Top image: Tatiana Bulgak

In Eastern Europe, the new wave of feminism is considered by many as a Western idea.

Young initiatives are trying to change this narrative by unearthing and sharing the local roots of the battle for women’s rights.

One group of artists in Moldova set out to tell this forgotten history in a visually compelling way, by making an illustrative series paying tribute to Moldovan women who fought for equality. Produced by Constanța Dohotaru, Natalia Gârbu, and Nina Lozinschi, the project features activist Ecaterina Arbore (1873-1937), doctor and politician Elena Alistar (1873-1955), educator Natalia Dadiani (1865-1903), as well as the first women in their profession, such as architect Etti-Roza Spirer (1900-1990), geologist Maria Pocora (1884-1933), and lawyer, Eugenia Crușevan (1889-1976), among others. The series was turned into a calendar sold together with the arts and culture magazine Mahala — The Calendar of Moldova’s 12 Feminists.

“I made a subjective list of feminists: women who spearheaded political movements, or were the first in their fields, opening the doors to other women,” says Dohotaru, one of the project’s organisers.

“It’s important to know that what we now call feminist movements have existed since the end of the 18th century in what is today known as Republic of Moldova. It was thanks to these movements that by the mid-19th century, women were gaining the right to education. We have always had brave, strong, persevering women in Moldova and we are just continuing their work.”

You can get hold of the calendar as a free bonus by ordering any product sold by Mahala.

Politician Elena Alistar, elected as an MP in 1918. Image: Masha Gross
Politician Elena Alistar, elected as an MP in 1918. Image: Masha Gross
Writer and politician Lidia Istrati. She signed the Declaration of Independence from the USSR in 1991. Image: Masha Gross
Writer and politician Lidia Istrati. She signed the Declaration of Independence from the USSR in 1991. Image: Masha Gross
Teacher, journalist, and campaigner Elena Djionat-Zaharov (1888-1936). Image: Anna Provozin
Teacher, journalist, and campaigner Elena Djionat-Zaharov (1888-1936). Image: Anna Provozin
Journalist, war nurse, and co-founder of the Bessarabian Womens League, Nadejda Tudor (1888-1942). Image: Ana Grigorovscaia
Journalist, war nurse, and co-founder of the Bessarabian Womens League, Nadejda Tudor (1888-1942). Image: Ana Grigorovscaia
Writer and philanthropist Roxandra Edling (1786-1844). Image: Tatiana Bulgak
Writer and philanthropist Roxandra Edling (1786-1844). Image: Tatiana Bulgak
Educator Natalia Dadiani (1865-1903). Image: Dasha Starostin
Educator Natalia Dadiani (1865-1903). Image: Dasha Starostin
Artist Nina Arbore (1889-1942). Image: Dasha Starostin
Artist Nina Arbore (1889-1942). Image: Dasha Starostin
Moldova's first female geologist Maria Pocora (1884-1933). Image: Tatiana Bulgak
Moldova's first female geologist Maria Pocora (1884-1933). Image: Tatiana Bulgak