chapter  3
25 Pages

Women’s organizations in the Czech lands, 1948–89: an historical perspective DenIsa nečasOvá

In this summary study looking at a relatively long and varied period (1948-89),1 I focus on issues important for determining the status of women’s organizations under state socialism. Although the term ‘women’s movement’ is difficult to apply to the communist period under review here – because women’s organizations in this period did not reflect the concept of a purely voluntary association of women aimed at implementing feminist ideas in practice – the mere existence of any women’s organization at that time reflects a need to address women’s issues. Also, specific steps undertaken at the time – be they isolated events or long-term efforts at influencing gender discourses – did influence society and shape its character to some extent. I will document that the main pillars determining the existence of women’s organizations and shaping their goals and activities were the ideology and political objectives of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (CCP). Only on this foundation could any gender-related agenda – which in some sense continued the pre-1948 tradition of the women’s movement – be built. The main issues, however, took on a quite different form, which can be understood using the concept of expropriation (Havelková 2009, 2013). Another aim of this paper is to outline the historical transformation of the four successive women’s organizations, including their restructuring, demise or renewal during the period under review. Finally, this study discusses the reductionist Czech historical interpretation of women’s organizations as mere ‘cogs’ within the regime.