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Matka-Polka kontra supermatka?
The Polish Mother vs. Super-mum

Author(s): Izabela Kowalczyk
Subject(s): Cultural Essay, Political Essay, Societal Essay
Published by: Stowarzyszenie Czasu Kultury
Keywords: The concept of the Polish Mother; Virgin Mary; Adam Mickiewicz; Motherhood in romanticism; The Polish Mother in the socialist era; the image of the Polish Mother promoted by the Catholic Church; photographs of Katarzyna Górna; the ambivalent image of mod

Summary/Abstract: The concept of the Polish Mother was formed during romanticism when Poland was occupied by three imperial powers and the main cause and political activity of the Polish people was their fight for freedom. The role of women in this struggle was not an easy one. Adam Mickiewicz created an image of a woman-martyr whose life was defined by patriarchal rules. These were hard: since the head of the family was busy fighting and possibly dying for freedom it was the woman who was burdened with all the chores of everyday life and the responsibility for the home and family. Additionally, the women who had not yet been widowed were always conscious of the danger their husbands were in and, what is more, against their natural maternal instinct, they raised their beloved sons to be future freedom fighters ready to sacrifice their lives for the liberation of their country. In this way the Polish Mother was the secular equivalent of the Holy Mother, a mother aware of the fact that her son might lose his life in a struggle for a higher ideal. Romantic art reflected this image very strongly. In his painting The Farwell, Artur Grottger depicted a mother holding a baby standing with her back turned to a procession of soldiers which her husband just joined. The concept of the Polish Mother fared well in the socialist era. Here the role of women was somewhat similar. Those from the opposition circles were aware of the risks their families faced. They also had to provide for them and combine working with caring for the home. In times of economic crisis and empty shops this left them no space for pursuing their own ambitions. It would seem that today the Polish Mother is a dated concept, but this is hardly so. Together with right-wing parties the Catholic Church is promoting an image of a woman whose only aim is raising a family and who is against such “heretical” feminist issues as relaxing the antiabortion law.

  • Issue Year: 2003
  • Issue No: 05
  • Page Range: 011-021
  • Page Count: 12
  • Language: Polish