15th of March is the anniversary of the outbreak of the Hungarian revolution in 1848. As a form of commemoration, read on and get to know the role and fashion of women in 19th century Hungary.
Women might not have been the protagonists of the revolution, but they certainly had a very important role in it. They were the backbone of their friends, boyfriends and husbands: they sometimes followed the men to the front, while the most determined ones even put on men’s clothes and took up swords!
Some of these women could happily welcome their loves when they returned home; however, some of them were not so fortunate and became widows due to the horrors of the war.
Some others followed their husbands into forced emigration. Some women had to face humiliation or even harsh prison sentences following the revolution, according to historian Zsolt Tamási.
Even though the rights of women were much more limited than they are now – for instance, they did not even have the right to vote –, they were expected to take part in the revolution, one way or another. Their tasks were to stand their ground at home, to encourage their husbands and to “raise their children to be good countrymen and countrywomen”, as we can read in liget.ro’s article. Women were also the ones who nursed the wounded, many of them even harbored refugees.
Naturally, women – of noble, commoner and bourgeois origin – were also highly interested in current issues of reform-era political life.
The more educated women even had a strong influence on their husbands at home. One good example is the wife of Prime Minister Count Lajos Batthyány: Countess Antónia Zichy who consciously guided her husband’s political career, according to mult-kor.hu.
Together with her sister, Karolina Zichy, they both played a key role in the transformation of aristocratic society in the Hungarian spirit. They led by example in the wearing of Hungarian dress, made Hungarian dancing fashionable at their balls, and made the Hungarian language presentable in the social scene through their demonstrative use of the language.
Countess Blanka Teleki consciously took on the role of an independent woman and entered public life. In 1846, she opened a girls’ education institute in the Hungarian capital, where Pál Vasváry, one of the outstanding young men of the revolution, enthusiastically taught young ladies Hungarian history.
On 15th March, the Countess herself recited the National Song to her pupils, according to mult-kor.hu.
Lastly, some words about the various outfits of women of the period!
The style and colour of ball dresses depended on the number of times the lady has attended a ball. For instance, for the first ball, a girl always wore a white, frilly tulle or muslin dress. For the second ball, she could choose a pink, light blue, pale yellow or apple green dress, according to torimaskepp.blog.hu.
If the girl had already participated in numerous balls and was still single, she could wear yellow, red or purple dresses.
At formal dinners, dinner parties and the theatre, long-sleeved dresses were compulsory. At the wedding, the bride wore an ivory or white scalloped, frilly, long veiled dress. If the newlyweds went on their honeymoon immediately after the wedding, the bride would wear a dark-coloured, simple silk dress or suit and even say “yes” in it.