Greek Women through History as Agents of Change

The Power of Virtual Events

Over 80 people from around the world gathered on May 26, 2021, for a lively virtual discussion of powerful women in Greek history from the Byzantine era to the present day. The event, which was co-sponsored by the Boston Lykeion Ellinidon (BLE) and the Consulate General of Greece in Boston, was the highlight of the BLE’s yearlong program saluting the bicentennial of the Greek War of Independence.

After remarks by Consul General Stratos Efthymiou and BLE President Irene Savas, the audience was treated to presentations by Ioli Kalavrezou, Maria Koundoura, and Marina Hatsopoulos with the expert moderation of Eurydice Georganteli.

Women as not only the subjects but the agents of change

Kalavrezou transported the audience to Byzantium through art, textiles, and other material evidence. The era was characterized by powerful women: historical figures like Empress Theodora and the hymnographer Kassiane, as well as everyday women, who could own property, initiate divorce, and actively participate in the workforce. Through studying the women of Byzantium, we can understand the context in which Greek society later developed.

Two Byzantine textiles displayed at a virtual event.
Kalavrezou shares Byzantine textiles during her presentation.

Next, Koundoura shared the stories of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Kalirroe Parren. Bookends to the nineteenth century, these two women helped reconcile the polarities between East and West, civilization and barbarism. Both urged women to have autonomous voices of their own, and envisioned a future in which women were not only the subjects but the agents of change. (Notably, in 1911 Parren, a journalist and educator, founded the Lyceum of Greek Women, of which BLE is a chapter.)

In the last of the three presentations, Hatsopoulos reminded us of the Greeks’ ancient legacy of innovation and urged us to encourage young girls and women to pursue STEM, a field that offers opportunity and economic independence. In Greece today, many women are leading startups that have the potential to transform the economy, like Ioanna Angelidaki, co-founder and CMO of InstaShop, and Marianthi Fragopoulou, founder of HERADO.

Education, an open mind, and a curious mind

During the event Q&A, all three presenters shared their advice for young changemakers:

“Education, an open mind, and a curious mind.” -Ioli Kalavrezou

“Find the means to tell your story – making yourself the agent of change in your narrative.” -Maria Koundoura

“Know what you want to do, like what you do, and think about what you need to get there. Then plow forward – and don’t wait for permission.” -Marina Hatsopoulos

Staying involved


Powerful Byzantine women presented by Dr. Kalavrezou.

Finally, Sophia Koustas and Ilyana Sawka, members of the BLE Board of Directors, invited everyone in attendance to explore the organization’s offerings, both in person and virtually. As members of BLE, anyone interested in any aspect of Greek traditional culture – dance, food, music, language or literature – can contribute their passion, interest, and skills. Most importantly, meaningful friendships and community connections are built along the way.

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