Bulgarian Women’s Image in BTA’s 20th Century Archives: “People’s Heroine”, Mother, Active Participant in Public Life


Sofia, March 08 (BTA/GNA) – A “people’s heroine” and active participant in public and political life: these are only some of the faces of the 20th century Bulgarian woman, sealed in the BTA Photo archive. In the 1940s, woman were portrayed predominantly as participants in the anti-fascist movement. In the 1980s, it was their role in the Socialist society that stood out, including the woman worker and women as “the foundation of the healthy Bulgarian family”.

Here is an excerpt of March 8 stories in the BTA newsletters:

Sofia, March 8, 1945 – “Today, March 8, 1945, Bulgarian women celebrated their holiday freely for the first time in the atmosphere of the Fatherland Front government,” the BTA newsletter of the same day said. It is noted that together with the official guests at the celebration in the Balkan Cinema, women from factories, institutions, craft workshops, students, intellectuals, schoolgirls, etc. were also present. “Among the attendees were prominent figures of the women’s anti-fascist movement in Bulgaria. The choir of the People’s Opera performed the national anthems of Bulgaria and the Soviet Union, after which the chairwoman of the Women’s People’s Union, Mrs. Elena Stoyanova, opened the event,” the news report said.

In his speech, then Propaganda Minister Dimo Kazasov said that “the Fatherland-Front authorities duly appreciated the merits of women and the rights they earned at the cost of much sacrifice.”

“Full civil and political rights will enable our woman to take an active part in our socio-political life and give a fairer outlook to life, while making her valuable contribution to future happy days,” Kazasov points out. On behalf of the National Committee of the Fatherland Front, Secretary Tsola Dragoycheva also sent greetings.

The role of women is also seen through the prism of war: an address by the Soviet Women’s Anti-Fascist Committee speaks of “eternal glory to the brave daughters of Bulgaria who gave their lives for their people”. “We, Soviet women, know the bright name of the Bulgarian national heroine, the fearless and steadfast Sonia – the invincible fighter against Fascism and its helpers, the traitors of the homeland. The name Sonia has become a symbol of women in Bulgaria,” the address said.

Sofia, March 8, 1982 – An article on the occasion of International Women’s Day in Sofia reads that Bulgarian women had “preserved and multiplied the dearest national virtues”. Women are featured as “respected mothers and wives”, “zealous workers”, “true creators of the Socialist society”, “active participants in the social, political, economic and cultural life of Bulgaria”. A meeting on the occasion of March 8 was held at the National Opera and Ballet. The attendees are “representatives of the Sofia community, champions of labour, leading women in production, order-bearers and heroines of Socialist labour, Socialists and veterans of the Party and the women’s revolutionary movement, women workers of science and culture”. The story underscores that the event was attended by the communist party and government elite, including leader Todor Zhivkov, Alexander Lilov, Milko Balev, Ognyan Doynov, Stanko Todorov, Todor Bozhinov and Tsola Dragoycheva.

Here is a glimpse of March 8 celebrations outside the capital city in the 1980s and 1990s:

Kardzhali, March 8, 1980 – A BTA dispatch says that “the modern Rhodope woman, the one for whom only three and a half decades ago literacy was more than a dream, and her world consisted of the few houses nextdoor and a land patch, today is a chemist in the factory laboratory, a civil engineer, an excellent producer, a knowledgeable and capable educator”.

Silistra, March 8, 1980 – A BTA news item described the women of the new socialist Dobrudzha as having “long ago survived the timid whirlwinds of emancipation and today, along with their myriad maternal duties, family care and community involvement, they have a decisive share in many crucial sectors of the economy, in health, education, trade and services.”

Blagoevgrad, March 8, 1980 – BTA reports of “the tremendous socio-economic and cultural changes in Bulgaria” having “a positive impact on women’s work and community participation”. “In the last year alone, the number of women employed in public production has increased by nearly 5,000 and now exceeds the impressive figure of 80,000. With the newly built industrial enterprises – the telephone equipment factory in Bansko, the Bilyana factory in Petrich, the cigarette factory in Blagoevgrad, the Yako Dorosiev factory in Hadzhidimovo, the relay plant in a number of Rhodope villages and others. Women’s labour is finding wider and more effective application,” the article said.

Sliven, March 8, 1980 – Women’s role in production is also highlighted in a report from the southern town of Sliven on the occasion of March 8. “Half of the production workers at the Dinamo machine-building plant are women. Caring for the improving working conditions in the workshop and in the family is the basis of the social program of the collective. On the eve of March 8, a bookshop was opened in the plant, and two months ago a hairdressing salon and a dry-clean shop and laundry started operating,” the article said. It noted that pregnant workers received free breakfast and every third child in the family is entitled to free kindergarten.

Haskovo, March 7, 1991 – On March 7, 1991 BTA has a report about the upcoming celebration and preparations for the flower market in the southern town of Haskovo. “A bunch of carnations costs BGN 2, a tulip – the same. A sprig of hyacinth is also BGN 2. A small bouquet of freesias sells for BGN 8, and it is better not to look at the label of gerberas. The florist also offers artificial flowers but nobody is buying,” the story goes.



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