The possibilities and impossibilities of this semi-century : the life of Laura Polanyi, 1882-1959 / Judit Szapor.
The following study is a biography of Laura Polanyi, located within the larger history of the Polanyi family, with a focus on three women, representing three generations of the family. Following their contributions to the progressive counter-culture of early-20th-century Hungary as well European and North American academia, the Polanyis achieved prominence as part of the European intellectual refugee wave from Hitler's Europe. Laura Polanyi, along with her famous brothers, Karl and Michael, represented the second intellectual generation of a family whose history provides an example of Jewish assimilation in turn-of-the-century Austria-Hungary. This study looks at Laura's early achievements as a historian, feminist, educator, and politician in the context of the social and intellectual history of 20th-century Hungary and Central Europe. It argues that the progressive Hungarian counter-culture of the early twentieth century provided a nurturing environment to the first cohort of educated professional women. Thus, the emerging Hungarian women's rights' movement and the professional and political aspirations of Hungarian bourgeois feminists cannot be explained in the framework of the dichotomy of public and private spheres but rather in their participation of the building of—in Habermas's definition—an alternative, progressive public sphere. The second part of the study treats the extended Polanyi family as a case study in the history of the intellectual refugee wave to North America. It highlights previously unexplored patterns of this immigration as well as sheds new light on the particular experiences of women intellectual refugees. Finally, Laura Polanyi's contribution to American historiography by vindicating Captain John Smith demonstrates how she used the opportunity to bring together her homeland and her adopted country as well as fulfill the academic promises of her youth.
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