Narcyza Zmichowska

* 04.03.1819 (Warsaw) 27.12.1876 (Warsaw) Poland
Fields of activity: writer, journalist, teacher
Author: Jadwiga Kucharczyk, Magda Rogozinska, Roma Szczocarz

Narcyza Żmichowska

»Learn, if you can, you should know if you can and think about being self-sufficient, because if you need help no one is waiting with care and support»

(Narcyza Zmichowska: preliminary word to the teaching works of Clementine Hoffman)

Why I consider this woman to be an important person?

Narcyza Żmichowska by her literary activity created a new image of Polish women, and as a teacher has developed a modern system of education for young girls. Żmichowska – writer, journalist and teacher was engaged in the struggle for freedom, supported the underground groups, changes in social customs |the matter of women’s rights to modern education and economic in dependence. Promoted her ideas by word and deed – by her own activity she showed that woman should be active in the public sphere.


Narcyza Żmichowska was born in not a very rich gentry family. She was educated in a girls' school and Governesses’ Institute in Warsaw. At the age of 19 she started working in the family of the Counts Zamoyski. With the family Zamoyski she went to Paris. There she met her brother, an exile after the 1830, whose left-wing views had a great influence on her. At his instigation, she decided to continue her education in the Paris Bibliotheque Nationale. As one of the first women she attended meetings of French Academy. The stay in Paris caused a change in her views and conduct. She became an "eccentric" boldly expressing her views and publicly smoking cigars, which was then totally prohibited to women. After returning to Poland took a job as a teacher in the country home. During frequent visits to Warsaw she made contacts with the local intellectuals. At that time her literary debut took place on the pages of local newspaper "Primrose". At that time she set up a group called "Enthusiasts". The group consisted of the Warsaw suffragists.

This informal group strived to achieve greater activity of women in public life, and the way to obtain it should be modern education and financial independence of women. Among the "Enthusiasts" prevailed an opinion that the emancipation of women is not possible without the emancipation of the whole nation. They undertook underground activities that led to the arrest of Zmichowska. It was the time of the biggest activity of the writer. In the years 1842-1845 her greatest work "Chat" was created. She also devoted herself to journalistic work, distributed illegal newspapers and carried out other actions against the invaders. She earned for her living by giving lessons. For her underground activities she went to prison twice. For the third time she had to leave Warsaw and suspend her writing activities in 1863 after the outbreak of the uprising. She then moved to Paris, where she studied at the Sorbonne. Shortly after her return to the country – she died in Warsaw.

Żmichowska’s activity in the age in which she lived was extraordinary. Her self-reliance, independence of opinion meant that her situation as a woman and a writer was difficult. Żmichowska was ahead of her time in her literary works which took up the subject of social and moral issues. She considered movements for independence at that time as doomed to fail. She wanted to replace them with the implementation of the needs of individuals, seeing them as a condition of social welfare. She believed that women needed knowledge in order to be able to make responsible life decisions. Żmichowska proposed two programs of the education for girls: one – domestic-practical for girls who wanted to devote themselves to the family and raising children, and the second – scientific for talented girls. The bases of education were five subjects: arithmetic, geography, natural science, history and language learning. The program also foresaw political, social and philosophical discussions. Żmichowska encouraged women to build between each other "sister relationships" because they share a common fate. She introduced the name of such a relationship: "sisterhood". In Żmichowska’s letters dominates the view that a woman is a human being and as such she deserves all rights, including the right to personal freedom.



  • Mirella Kurkowska: Narcyza Żmichowska w środowisku lat czterdziestych XIX w. Kobiety i świat polityki, Polska na tle porównawczym w XIX i w początkach XX wieku, PIW, Warszawa,1994 
  • Maria Woźniakiewicz-Dziadosz: Między buntem a rezygnacją. O powieściach Narcyzy Żmichowskiej. PIW, Warszawa 1978 
  • Wiktoria Śliwowska: Polskie drogi do emancypacji. O udziale kobiet w ruchu niepodległościowym 1833- 1856). PWN, Warszawa,1987


  • Picture source:

Description: Narcyza Żmichowska (1819-1876),Polish writer and poet.,_portrait.jpg

Date: before 1876

Author: unknown

Rights: PD