If we were to talk about the greatest figures of Hungarian history, crowned kings, brave generals, famous statesmen and legendary freedom fighters would come to mind - almost exclusively representatives of the stronger sex. Over the centuries however, many women enhanced Hungary's reputation.
No one can take the title of being the most courageous woman from Ilona Zrinyi, mother of Francis II Rákóczi, the leader of Rákóczi's War of Independence at the beginning of the 18th century. When, after ten years of marriage, her husband, Ferenc I Rákóczi passed away, Ilona Zrinyi managed to stay her children's guardian. A few years later she married Imre Thokoly, prince of Upper Hungary and later, Transylvania, and due to her husband she joined the kuruc side of the uprising against the Austrians. After Thokoly suffered defeat several times, the imperial troops arrived in Palanok Castle, where they encountered unexpected resistance: a woman, Ilona Zrinyi stopped them. Ilona - with her children at her side - heroically defended the castle for two years, from 1686 to 1688, against the troops led by General Caraffa , and only passed it over to the Austrians after Buda was freed from Turkish dominion.
Despite being from a completely different era, Ilona Tóth had similar goals in mind. Ilona Tóth is perhaps the most well-known female figure of Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which was set against the Soviet regime. Ilona Toth graduated from high school in 1951, and gained admission to medical college the same year. She practiced medicine when the revolution broke out, and on 23 October, along with her fellow students took part in the protests in Budapest. Later on she was diverted to the Alexander Péterfy hospital where she was involved in the work of the Volunteer Ambulance Service. After the end of armed resistance she chose the political struggle, produced leaflets , and participated in the dissemination of an illegal newspaper. She was arrested on 20 November and, along with a partner of hers was charged with the killings of a ÁVH agent. (the political police of the communist dictatorship, the State Security Department) In the conceptual process Ilona Toth was sentenced to death and was executed in June of the following year - she lived for 25 years.
It is without doubt that the most famous female politicians of Hungary were Margit Slachta and Anna Kéthly. Margaret Slachta was the first woman to become a member of the Hungarian National Assembly. She got into a political career early, opened a social school, and later was the editor of the magazine called "Hungarian Woman", which was tellingly subtitled "A Journal of Christian feminism." In 1920, she became a candidate of the Christian National Union Party and became a member of the National Assembly, but after two years she gave up on national politics and with a few companions founded the Sisters of Social Service, opened an institution for educating social workers and grounded anti-fascist ideological courses throughout the country.
As the head of her feminist movement, which later self-organized into a party, the Christian Women's Camp, she raised her voice against the deportations during the Second World War, and hid many known Jews of Hungary herself.
Anna Kéthly was the second female member of parliament in Hungarian history, she retained her mandate even after several elections. The female politician called for the improvement of health care, pushed to protect the interests of women, and advocated the extension of compulsory education up to 14 years of age. She managed to keep her mandate despite that her party, the Social Democratic Party of Hungary, performed poorly on the last free election of the Horthy era. Anna Kéthly became party faction leader (President in 1956) after the world war and became Vice President of the National Assembly, and later on had the the post of a minister in the government of the martyr Prime Minister Imre Nagy.
The picture would not be complete, if we wouldn't commemorate on the life of the most well-known Hungarian female explorer, Florence Sass. The lady's family was massacred by Romanians during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. A Transylvanian Armenian family took care of her, but when they had fled to Vidin of nowadays' Bulgaria she lost her stepparents and sunk into slavery. This is where the famous English explorer, Samuel Baker found and freed her not long after. He took the barely twenty-year-old girl of unparalleled beauty with him so that she may be a part of the completion of his long-cherished dream: discovering the source of the Nile. Their journey was long and hard, but it ended in 1864 when they had found a previously unknown great lake, which Baker thought was the second source of the Nile. The lake was named Albert Nyanza in honor of Queen Victoria's husband.
Lilly Steinschneider had an equally adventurous life as the first female pilot of Hungary. She took part in a pilot training course in the Austrian city of Wiener Neustadt with an Etrich-type aircraft and got her certificate in 1912. Although she couldn't be at the starting line for the highly anticipated race of August in the same year, thousands were witness to the first Hungarian female pilot's ascension of 50-60 meters in October.
One year later Lilly won the speed race and got second place in the flight length and time spent in the air contests. During the first World War she offered her services to the ministry of war, but was refused duty, so for a short period she played her part in the war effort as a nurse.
The figure of Elizabeth Bathory serves as the basis of a number literary works: novels, poems and movies alike from both Hungary and the rest of the world. While in public knowledge she lives on as the female Dracula, a bloodsucking monster, reasonable historians believe that the woman of questionable mental stability may have been the victim of a show trial. Elizabeth Bathory was the subject of some strange hearsays, according to which she dealt with occult sciences, tortured servants and, afraid of old age, turned to devilish practices in order to find the secret of eternal youth. According to these rumors, she was responsible for more than six hundred deaths. Elizabeth Bathory was held prisoner walled in in the castle of Čachtice. (Hungarian: Csejte) This is where death took her on 21 August 1614.