Alice G. Masaryková
Alice Garrigue Masaryk is one of the most important woman in Czech history of 20th century. She gained indelible position in Czechoslovak history as daughter of first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and mainly as first chairman of Czechoslovak Red Cross. Most of her life was devoted to social work. She dealt with issues of hygiene, unemployment, well being of children, training of professional social workers. She was establishing new schools, hospitals and supported a large number of social projects in general. At the time of serious illness of her mother and even after her death it was Alice, who took over obligations of first lady of the state in years 1918 – 1935. Unfortunately her life was not very happy. She never married or had a family and children. Work became the love of her life. After the tragic events in 1948, when the communist coup happened in Czechoslovakia and also the death of her brother Jan Masaryk she has left Czechoslovakia and never returned to the motherland. She died alone in the Czech retirement home in Chicago. Her remains were not transported to Masaryk´s family tomb in Lány until 1994.
Childhood and student years
Alice Masaryk was born 3th May 1879 in Vienna. When she was three years old the family moved to Prague where her father Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk started to lecture on local university. As a thirteen year old she transferred from town school to the first girls grammar school in Czech republic called Minerva. Since childhood Alice Masaryk has dreamed of becoming a doctor, therefore after graduation from Minerva high school in 1898 she enrolled herself at the Faculty of Medicine. She was the only girl among fifty students. She was learning anatomy, mineralogy, botany, zoology, physics and histology. Unfortunately, in that time were at medical school accepted woman as exceptional listeners and as students they were not allowed to do exams, they were allowed only colloquiums. Alice Masaryk had to deal with and indulgent approach of professors and with her own myopia (for girls of that time was very strange to wear monocle and glasses as we know today were not yet invented). After year of studies reluctantly left the medical school and enrolled to Faculty of Arts where she successfully passed tests from history for high schools and decided for career of a teacher.
Alice Masaryk, First Lady of Czechoslovak Republic
The formation of Czechoslovak Republic meant also beginning of new period of life for Alice Masaryk. In October 1918 she was appointed member of Parliament for Slovakia in the first National Assembly of Czechoslovak Republic. In that time the Czechoslovak Red Cross has gradually started to form and Alice Masaryk became its First Chairman in 1919 and finally was able to fully concentrate on her favourite social work. In the time when her father became the president, her mother was already seriously ill. Therefore, it was Alice, who took over the role of First Lady. As the First Lady Alice was in charge of large domestic staff at Prague castle and Lány as well, while responsible for official program of president, organizing lunches and dinners, including the guest list, she also organized fathers private meetings with statesman, scientist, writers and journalists and attended various festivities and accompanied president on many foreign travels.
Formation of Czechoslovak red cross
Right at the beginning of the year 1919 started Alice G. Masaryk also actively working on the formation of Czechoslovak branch of Red Cross. The territory of new state of Czechoslovakia were still operated by original Czech and Slovakian association of Austrian and Hungarian Red Cross. Unfortunately their focus and activities no longer matched the requirement of modern Czechoslovak republic. In forming a new organization Alice showed excellent organizational and highly qualified orientation in social sector. 1 February 1919 on the preparatory meeting of Czechoslovak Red Cross she precisely formulated future plans and activities of organization and she was subsequently elected as its chairman.
Operation of Czechoslovak Red Cross, led by Alice G. Masaryk
Since its foundation in 1919 the operation of Czechoslovak Red Cross was really plentiful. Mainly due to active approach of first chairman of Czechoslovak Red Cross Alice G. Masaryk and her co-workers managed to focus on the really very wide social and health area of Czechoslovak Republic.
Memorial hall of Alice G. Masaryk
Like her father Tomáš G. Masaryk Alice G. Masaryk was staying since 1921 in Lány, when the chateau Lány became official summer residence of president. Alice was very fond of Lány. As first lady she conscientiously managed household in Lány, she was responsible for work schedule of Masaryk, organized various meetings, formal lunches and teas and she was accepting distinguished guests. Here she actively worked for Czechoslovak Red Cross. Despite very busy work schedule she managed to also relax. Often she took long walks to beautiful woods of Křivoklát near Lány. Right in Lány Alice G. Masaryk built the Exemplary social house – Counselling centre for mothers with children for local residents.
In the late thirties the political tension in Czechoslovakia and throughout Europe has grown. Alice Masaryk believed till the last moment, there will not be a war, therefore, the Munich Agreement and the subsequent occupation part of Czechoslovakia was a very painful shock. Alice Masaryk went to America, where she wanted to organize a lecture tour to familiarize the American public with tragedy of Czechoslovakia. The lectures did not attract anyone and Alice had to cancel the tour. On Christmas 1939 she mentally collapsed. Until the end of World War II she lived in various US nursing homes. In 1945 she returned to liberated Czechoslovakia. She lived in her flat in Loretánská street in Prague and in the summer she was visiting Slovakian village Bystřička, where she built house in 1920. After the death of her brother Jan Masaryk she left Czechoslovakia forever. Since fifties she lived in USA. Alice Masaryk never married. She died childless in Chicago on 29th November 1966. In 1994 her remains has been transported to the Masaryk family tomb in Lány.
A. G. Masaryková 1879 - 1966
„We, Czechoslovaks, have as symbol of our nation Linden. What Linden means to us? Let’s look at leaf of Linden and we see a hearth. Linden the emblem of nation is composed of infinite number of small hearts. May each of us is a fresh leaf – the heart of nation is not ashamed to confess of giving it all in service of the common good. “ A. G. Masaryková
Department of Social and Historical Sciences of Museum T. G. M. Rakovník