First street in Czechia named after Alice Masaryk

Alice Masaryková Street, photo of the name unveiling

She was the daughter of the founding father of Czechoslovakia, took on the role of First Lady after her mother died, and headed the Czechoslovak Red Cross for 20 years during the First Republic. And yet, surprisingly, Alice Masaryk has never had a Czech street named after her – until now.

Alice Masaryková | Photo: archive of Czech Radio

In practically every town in Czechia of more than a few thousand inhabitants, you are likely to find a street, square, or school named after the founder and first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. His son, the diplomat and politician Jan Masaryk, also has his fair share of namesakes, and even T. G. Masaryk’s wife, the American Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk, has a park in Prague named after her.

But until recently, the Masaryks’ eldest child, Alice, has, surprisingly, never had a municipal landmark named after her, despite doing much to improve social welfare in the nascent Czechoslovak republic. That has now changed, thanks to the efforts of Bára Svátková, a nurse from Rožnov pod Radhoštěm, a town of about 16,000 inhabitants in the Zlín Region.

“I’m a nurse, and I’m proud of being a nurse. Alice Masaryk also loved nurses and did a lot for them, even in the social sphere.”

Svátková campaigned for over six years to get a street in her town named after the woman that was so influential for her field.

“She was the head of the Czechoslovak Red Cross for 20 years. She managed to obtain a lot of property for the organisation and gave it back to the people in the form of hospitals and clinics. This was at a time when the new Czechoslovak republic was still suffering from the effects of the First World War. Many men were returning injured from the front. Many families had lost their breadwinners. And yet no one was trying to help people from a health and welfare point of view. So Alice Masaryk took it upon herself to do so.”

Alice was born in 1879 and was educated in Prague, London, Berlin and Leipzig. After her studies she spent some time in Chicago learning about modern methods of social work, knowledge and skills which she brought back with her to the Czech lands – at the time still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Photo: Gabriela Hykl,  Radio Prague International

As her father advocated abroad for a new Czechoslovak democratic republic, she became convinced that democracy could only work if it included good social welfare programmes founded on sound social principles. As the founder and head of the Czechoslovak Red Cross, she was able to change the previous system of welfare inherited from the Austrian empire, and established health clinics and food kitchens for the poor, for example.

Svátková is happy that Alice Masaryk has finally got the recognition that she believes she deserves.

“Streets are named after her brother, this square is named after her father, her mother has a park in Prague and so on. So I’m glad that we finally achieved our goal. And I hope that other towns will follow our example.”

The new street name was unveiled on 7 March, T. G. Masaryk’s birthday.

Authors: Anna Fodor , Gabriela Hykl | Source:
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