Jiřina Šiklová among women to be honoured with street names in new Prague district

Jiřina Šiklová

Jiřina Šiklová and Madeleine Albright are just two of the women who streets and green areas will be named after in a new Prague district called Smíchov City, after a City Council vote this week. While Albright was a US secretary of state, Šiklová was a communist-era dissident who pioneered gender studies in this country in the 1990s. I spoke to Lucie Přibyl, librarian at the Center for Gender Studies in Prague – which the academic created – about her legacy.

“She was a sociologist, publicist, writer, and she also dabbled in politics. She was also a dissident, and that was a big part of her legacy.

Jiřina Šiklová | Photo: Post Bellum
“She founded the Gender Studies Library, and the first books in the library are from her private collection that she smuggled in during the communist regime, which she was imprisoned for.

“Those are the important points in her life, but she was also a very open person, very open to discussion. She helped found the gender studies and social work departments at Charles University, so her field of interest was very broad.”

She sounds like she was a true pioneer. How do you think Šiklová played a role in developing gender studies to the point where it is now here in Czechia?

“At the time, there was no gender studies at Charles University. So in the 90s, when the gender studies non-profit was founded, there were many debates and lectures on different topics concerning gender studies, and from that she helped create the bachelor’s or master’s in gender studies.”

In Smíchov they are going to be naming some streets in the neighbourhood after Jirina Šiklová and other influential Czech women like Madeleine Albright. Both of these women were very important in Czech history. Why is it important for these women to be recognized and have their name on these street signs?

Madeleine Albright | Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  Czech Radio

“I think it’s very important from a symbolic point of view. There are only roughly 5% of streets named after women in the biggest cities in the Czech Republic.

“Every women that has a street named after her is important, the symbolic value is that she is made more visible.

“For example, there are many people who have never heard about Jiřina Šiklová or the other women the Smíchov streets will be named after. It’s important for people to get to know these women, because they are really interesting, influential, and important women.”

Why do you think some people don’t know the history of some of these women, is it not taught in schools?

“That’s exactly it, women are not often represented in history books, and they aren’t talked about as much, even important women like the founders of the Czech women’s movement such as Eliška Krásnohorská and many others.

“They are almost invisible in textbooks, but they had a very big influence on their society.”