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The remarkable career of a ground-breaking female Slovak scholar

JUST OVER a hundred years ago, on April 13, 1913, Helena Turcerová-Devečková graduated from a post-graduate program at the Sorbonne in Paris making her the first Slovak woman to receive a degree from that prestigious institution. Ms Turcerová-Devečková received her degree for her studies of the works of Ľudovít Štúr, the Slovak linguist who is given much of the credit for codifying the modern Slovak language.

JUST OVER a hundred years ago, on April 13, 1913, Helena Turcerová-Devečková graduated from a post-graduate program at the Sorbonne in Paris making her the first Slovak woman to receive a degree from that prestigious institution. Ms Turcerová-Devečková received her degree for her studies of the works of Ľudovít Štúr, the Slovak linguist who is given much of the credit for codifying the modern Slovak language.

According to the TASR newswire, Turcerová-Devečková was born in Slovany (in the Turiec region on February 18, 1886. In her younger years, she was something of an traveling international scholar in an era when few Slovak women attended universities let alone went on to graduate school. Before going to Paris Ms Turcerová-Devečková attended schools in Moscow and Warsaw. In 1905, she began the study of French literature Sorbonne. After receiving her degree at the Sorbonne she worked as a professor of French language at a girls’ grammar school in Russia.

During World War I she settled in Martin and wound up spending most of the rest of her life on Slovak soil. She moved to Bratislava in 1948 where she worked for many years as a translator.

Ms Turcerová-Devečková had a wide-ranging career covering many areas. In 1910, she wrote a book about Štúr and the relationship between his studies in the Slovak language and the eventual independence of Slovakia. The book was written in French but was not published in Slovak until 1956 when it created a lively response in Slovak and Czech literary circles.

Later, Turcerová-Devečková published a treatise on the impact of Hegel’s philosophy on Štúr and another about the history of Matica Slovenská, a cultural institution. She also translated many classical non-fiction works from Russian and French into Slovak. In 1919, she was part of the Czechoslovak delegation at the Peace Conference in Paris.

Helena Turcerová-Devečková died on November 4, 1964, aged 78.

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