This week, let’s meet Kallirhoe Parren, one of the first Greek feminists, who was also the first Greek female journalist and editor.
Welcome back to our series in honor of Women’s History Month! Let’s meet another great Greek woman of history — Kallirhoe Parren. She’s not only among the first Greek feminists, but also the first Greek female journalist.
Meet Kallirhoe Parren: One of the First Greek Feminists
Kallirhoe Siganos was born in Rethymno, Crete in 1861, but her family later on settled in Athens. She graduated a valedictorian from the Arsakeion High School for Teachers in 1878.
Upon graduation, she was invited to Odessa, where she became director for the Girls’ School of the Greek community. From there, she moved to Andrianople to run the Greek Zapeion School.
When she returned to Athens she met and married the founder of the Athens News Agency, John Parren. Their acquaintance to important personalities of the period drove Kallirhoe to develop a passion for information on intellectual, political, and social issues. She wrote about this.
“I watched journalists discuss, and the desire to write like them, not only for myself but also for others, gradually grew within me.”
First female journalist and editor
In March 1887 she launched a newspaper called Ephimeris ton Kirion (Ladies’ Journal). This was the first Greek publication that specifically targeted a female readership, while run entirely by women. Kallirhoe established herself as the first Greek female journalist and editor. Public response was incredible: in 1892, the newspaper sold 5,000 copies in Greece and abroad.
Ephimeris ton Kirion helped lead revolutionary initiatives for women, like the submission of 2,850 signatures to the Greek government in favor of enhancing educational opportunities for women.
A report on women’s emancipation in 19th century Greece claims that as Greeks pursued nationalism, women were assigned a more nurturing role. Kallirhoe is credited with expanding the woman’s role by using her newspaper to call them to be more active in terms of patriotism. In this movement, she encouraged mothers to educate their children on Greek history and culture, and to sustain customs and rekindle traditions.
The circulation of the Ladies’ Journal continued without interruption for 31 years until its discontinuation in November 1917, due to the political situation at the time. Because she vocally opposed Greece’s involvement in World War I on Entente’s side, Kallirhoe was exiled to the island of Hydra (1917-1918)
Kallirhoe later ran a famous literary salon known as the “Literary Saturdays”. Her own rich works include a trilogy, called Ta Vivlia tis Avyis (The Books of Dawn), about the struggle of Greek women towards self-accomplishment and emancipation. The three volumes are I Hirafetimeni (The Emancipated Woman, published in 1900), I Mayissa (The Enchantress, published in 1901) and To Neon Symvoleon (The New Contract, published in 1902). The trilogy was well received. Critics Grigorios Xenopoulos and Kostis Palamas claimed it contributed to the development of the Greek social novel. It was later adapted into a three- act drama called Nea Yineka (The New Woman), played by Marika Kotopouli in 1907.
Promoting educational and employment opportunities for women
Kallirhoe’s prolific feminist work is not restricted to literature. She actively participated in international women’s conferences and proclaimed the need to provide education and employment for women.
Between 1890 and 1896, she founded various welfare organizations, like the “Sunday School for Poor Women & Girls” and the “Asylum of Saint Catherine”. In 1896, she founded the Union of Greek Women which was actively involved in collecting funds, sewing soldier uniforms, and training medical staff for the short-lived Greco-Turkish War of 1897. In 1900, Kallirhoe championed state protection over children and women’s working conditions, through an appeal to minister Theodoros Deligiannis. Also, by 1908, she founded the National Council of Greek Women, which was affiliated with the International Council of Women. She founded the Lyceum of Greek Women in 1911, to fight various forms of injustices and successfully lobby for women’s admittance to the University of Athens.
Kallirhoe also played a key role in establishing ensuring women’s right to vote. The first attempt occurred in 1895, when she addressed Prime Minister Charilaos Trikoupis, asking him to guarantee women’s political rights. Later, in 1921 she organized the 2nd Women’s Conference in Greece, persuading the Prime Minister Dimitrios Gounaris to declare that he was in favor of women’s vote.
Among the first Greek feminists
Kallirhoe Parren died after suffering a stroke on January 15, 1940. At the end of her life, this trailblazing woman, one of the first Greek feminists, and one of the most important players in the women’s rights movement in Greece, seemed content and fulfilled. In those final moments, she is said to have uttered these words:
“I am happy and I can now rest in peace because the seeds which we, a few pioneers, have sowed in barren and rocky land, have flourished. This is the legacy I leave behind. I am sure that you, my fine [female] collaborators, will create the woman of the future”.
A stalwart bookworm ever since I can remember myself. I studied English Literature and became an EFL/ESOL Teacher. I have successfully combined teaching and working as an executive secretary — in a big advertising company and a law firm — for several years. I’m a freelance writer, editor, and blogger, as of lately. Also, a bit ironic by nature but, all-in-all, quite easy-going! Partner to 1 and mother to 2 cats. I once tried to give up coffee and then swore to never make that mistake again…