Alojzija Štebi

Alojzija Štebi (detail). Photo archive of the former Historical Archives of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Slovenia, I/298, Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, SI AS 1549

Born in 1883 in Ljubljana, where she died in 1956. Educator, activist, editor, journalist and among the first Slovenian women politicians.

Alojzija Štebi was one of the first politicians among Slovenian women, and one of the most prominent Slovenian and Yugoslavian feminists. She began her career as a teacher which was one of the few professions that were, at that time, accessible to women. She taught in the Carniola (today Gorenjska) region, but left the profession for good in 1912, since she was experiencing continuous attacks due to her political beliefs, which became even fiercer after she joined the Social Democratic Party. Afterwards, she became a professional political activist and worked in the editorial office of the socialist newspaper Zarja, while at the same time contributed to several other social democratic newspapers.

She was an outstanding personality of the Social Democratic Party and one of the leading figures of its regional branch in a time when women were admitted to political parties mainly on the basis of family relationship with party’s active members. Throughout her career, she strived for the improvement of the social status and living conditions of workers and their family members. During the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, she also participated in a special committee for women’s work.

After World War I, she left party politics and became one of the few women who reached a high position in the Yugoslavian state administration. Despite the fact that after 1904, women could work in the public and state administration in the Carniola region, they were mainly typists, while Alojzija Štebi held an entirely different position. She was a senior officer and therefore actually decided on the social policies to be adopted on the Slovenian territory. After 1918, she held the position of Town and State Secretary and co-created the social work (a systematic state aid for the poor) and the healthcare institutions reform. She also signed the decree that enabled the employment of Angela Boškin, who was the first home visiting nurse in the new State.

Alojzija Štebi was one of the first Slovenian women who actively participated in politics, and one of the most prominent Slovenian and Yugoslavian feminists.

In the mid-war period, her professional life was strongly intertwined with journalistic work. She wrote numerous brochures on alcoholism, care for the neglected youth, and other social issues. In 1927, she moved to Belgrade where she led the Central Institute for Hygiene and edited Ženski pokret, the most radical feminist periodical in Yugoslavia. She published polemical debates on how to improve the social status of women and most disadvantaged social classes. Well before World War I, she participated in socialist women societies, spoke at political rallies, and encouraged networking among women. In 1911, Etbin Kristan organised the first Slovenian celebration of the International Women’s Day. From then on, Alojzija Štebi regularly participated in the organisation of this celebration, where she ardently advocated for the women’s right to vote, since this would provide “adequate security for the lives and health of women workers, mothers and children, ensure a satisfactory wage for women to provide decent living conditions for themselves and their children, help lower food prices and the cost of housing, while at the same time help fight militarism”. On top of that, she called for quality education, healthcare, and social policy.

The feminist movement in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia also advocated for women’s suffrage. So, in 1923, its members founded the Feminist Alliance, which was the Yugoslavian branch of the international organisation that fought for equal pay, the adoption of general income for housewives, and the right for women to act as judges.

With her enthusiasm and perseverance, Alojzija Štebi profoundly shaped the Slovenian and Yugoslavian feminist movement and state-level social policy. After her retirement, she continued to take on part-time assignments for the Ministry of Education. However, in 1956, she was notified “with a heavy heart” that her contract was terminated, since it was no longer possible to bring confidential documents to her house. She died the same year.

Casino Building

The Casino Building is a cultural monument of local significance. It was built between 1836 and 1838 at the initiative of the Casino Society. For several years, its café on the ground floor and the spacious hall on the first, served as a central meeting point of Ljubljana’s high society. In this Great Hall in 1923, Yugoslavian feminists, among others Alojzija Štebi, founded the Feminist Alliance of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Great Hall is open for visits during public events, but it is not accessible for persons with reduced mobility.