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Anna Zarnowska (1931-2007)

Polish historical science has recently suffered a big loss as Anna Zarnowska unexpectedly passed away on June 9th. This is also a big loss for the International Conference of Labour and Social History/ITH. Anna Zarnowska had appreciated and animated ITH by her activities for almost forty years.

Anna Zarnowska began to participate in annual conferences of ITH in the mid 1960ies as a representative of the Institute of History at Warsaw University, where she started her academic career at the end of the 1950ies. At that time she belonged to the youngest post-war generation of Polish historians dealing with a relatively new and very prominent current in Polish post-war historical research – social history. Anna Zarnowska focussed her historical research on social and cultural transformations occuring during the early phases of industrialization in Poland. During almost fifty years of her historical research she presented works on such issues as social mobility and structural transformations, the emergence of new social classes at the turn of the 19th century. Anna Zarnowska proposed a quite new approach, enriching the historian`s methods by an anthropologist`s gaze. Her studies on the culture and everyday life of early Polish workers in Warsaw broke new ground for Polish historical science.

At the end of the 1980ies Anna Zarnowska animated, and organized a research group working on an absolutely new topic in Polish historical sciences: the transformation of the social and cultural status of women in Poland in the 19th and 20th centuries in a comparative approach. These history based gender studies were quite unique in Poland at this moment.

However busy Anna Zarnowska was, one annual event was a constant one: the September meeting in Linz. Being a member of the Executive Committee for long years, she was an important stimulator of its scientific activity. Her appearences during the sessions always gathered attention, like her paper on the gender issue in Poland in 19th and the beginning of 20th century, or the national aspects of the Polish labour movement. And last but not least: Anna Zarnowska always remembered to introduce her younger colleagues and followers from Poland to the ITH community. Without doubt they are going to continue this cooperation between Polish historians and the ITH.

Grazyna Szelagowska
University of Warsaw
(July 2007)