The Lykeion ton Ellinidon, a non-profit institution, was established in Greece on December 2, 1910, on the initiative of Kalliroi Siganou Parren. Its mission at that time was to foster collaboration among women to defend, protect and preserve literature, arts and sciences, and to regenerate and preserve Greek folk customs and traditions such as dances, songs, and folk attires. In February 1911, King George I recognized the Lykeion by regal decree. In her 1911 lecture at Parnassos, Kalliroi Parren presented the Lykeion to the Athenian community, saying: “Our Lykeion is a center of the utmost Hellenic education, a corner where, one after the other, all the talents and feminine values of Hellenism are united, an estia [hearth] of female regeneration–a regeneration that is national and patriotic. All aspects where women may excel, work, benefit and be benefited are incorporated into the Lykeion’s wide program.”
Who was Kalliroi Parren? She was Greece’s first woman journalist and, more importantly, the pioneer of the feminist movement in Greece. On March 8, 1887, Kalliroi Parren published the first Greek newspaper exclusively for women, the “Ladies Journal”. In 1890, she established the Sunday School for Indigent Women and Girls, where ladies of the elite taught reading and writing to illiterate and indigent working mothers. Kalliroi Parren fought for the right of women to be admitted to the national university, and for their assignment to public office. Following her efforts, protective measures were established for working juveniles and women. In 1894, she initiated efforts for the Harilaou-Trikoupi administration to grant women the right to vote. And she was the first Greek woman to officially represent her country at international conferences. In 1896, she represented Greek women at the International Convention of Women in Chicago.
Kalliroi Parren’s vision was for women to participate in all aspects of national life and progress – not as rebels or opponents to men, but as partners and allies in the difficult work of the nation’s regeneration. In 1910, she wrote, “Can there possibly be restoration for the Greek nation without the restoration of Greek women, who are the mothers and wives and sisters of the men?” She fought to educate women in even the most remote Greek villages so that “they know how to preserve their children in life, and insure for them health, beauty, prosperity and the strengths of our race.”
Article three of the current Constitution of the Lykeion ton Ellinidon defines as its purpose:
1. The study, scientific recording, empowerment and preservation of Greek customs and traditions within the framework of our national life, and
2. The elevation of women of Greece, ethical support to mothers and their children and the equality of the genders.
Over 100 years of the Lykeion ton Ellinidon’s national and cultural contributions later, the Lykeion now has 55 branches throughout Greece and 18 chapters around the world – including the Boston Lykeion Ellinidon. Today, we continue the important work of Kalirroi Parren. The rights that she fought for are now considered to be established, and the sociopolitical framework in which we function is completely different. And since our action takes place abroad, our role is more difficult. At the same time, this means that we gather closer together around Greek culture and with greater enthusiasm. We strive to pass down this enthusiasm to the next generation: we hope they also will love Greek tradition, and feel empowered to educate others in perpetuating it.
Celebrate 25 years of the Boston Lykeion Ellinidon with us on December 3rd, 2023! To learn more, visit the event page.