One of the women who contributed to Romania's war effort in WWI...
Of the plethora of women who contributed to Romania's war effort in WWI, working towards the Great Union of 1918, Margarita Miller Verghy stands out, not least for the way in which she coped with what fate handed her. In childhood she was plagued by several medical conditions, and yet she overcame them to become a teacher, a journalist, a writer, a feminist activist, and a volunteer nurse in the war.
Here is Monica Negru from the National Archives of Romania, sketching for us a biography of Margarita Miller Verghy: “She was born in Iasi in 1865, the daughter of a professor and politician who was descended from a Polish noble family. Her father died when she was young. The girl was left with her mother, and soon after she contracted bone tuberculosis, and her mother made the decision to seek treatment abroad; for that reason she was educated in Geneva and Paris. There she learned six foreign languages. When she got back in the country, she got her baccalaureate at the Elena Doamna boarding school, and eventually she got an advanced degree and PhD in philosophy at the University of Geneva. Settling eventually in Bucharest, Margarita Miller Verghy was headmistress of the Elena Doamna Normal School for Girls, where she wrote the first textbooks: a textbook for learning French, and several textbooks for younger pupils.”
In 1912, she published a book called “Razvan's Children”, a book that got an award from the Romanian Academy, and a first among textbooks, as it was the first volume of supplementary reading for gymnasium students. Her educational endeavors were a natural extension of her literary preoccupations, as Monica Negru told us: “Margarita Miller Verghy's debut was in a newspaper, with a short story. She was also the first translator of Queen Marie's writings into Romanian. During WWI, Margarita, just like pianist Cella Delavrancea, was on the side of the Central Powers, not the Allies, as a Germanophile. However, when Romania joined the war in 1916, her school, Elena Doamna, was turned into a military hospital, so she enlisted as a volunteer nurse with the Romanian Red Cross. During the German occupation, just like other members of charitable organizations, she was caring for war orphans.”
During the interwar period, Margarita Miller Verghy continued with her literary and journalistic activity. In the 1940s she contributed to radio theater productions for Radio Romania, in spite of her frail health. In 1924 she had a car accident which left her almost completely blind. Literary activity blended with activism in her life, even before the Great War. Monica Negru: “In 1915, together with other Romanian women writers, she founded the Romanian Women Scouts Association. Later, together with Adela, sister to historian Alexandru Xenopol, she founded the Society of Women Writers. She acted as its vice-president and contributed articles to the society's magazine. She was a member of various feminist organizations of her time. We found a document attesting that in 1935 she was active in the Romanian National Council of Women, led by Alexandra Cantacuzino. In the history of literature she is remembered as the first female writer to publish a detective novel, 'The Princess in Crinoline', which Margarita Miller Verghy wrote when she was 82 years old. She also wrote short stories, theater plays and ethnography works which the Romanian Academy granted her awards for. She also contributed to the book 'The Evolution of Feminist Writing in Romania'. “
Margarita Miller Verghy passed away in 1953, at 87 years of age, as a major figure in the world of Romanian literature, letters and activism.