A woman who became one of the best known battlers for women’s rights of her generation lived twice in Huddersfield – and now an appeal has gone out to trace anyone who remembers her.
Olga Misar, who was born in Vienna but first lived in Huddersfield around 1891, became a staunch advocate for peace during World War One and the years shortly after.
She was later to return to Huddersfield when she fled here to escape the Nazis at the outbreak of World War Two.
Olga’s father Dietrich Popper was a cloth merchant and between 1887 and 1894 the family lived in England, first in Bradford and then in Huddersfield.
At the time of the 1891 Census they were at Sunny Bank Road in Edgerton.
The family returned to Vienna in 1894 where Olga gave English lessons, studied at the university and in 1899 she married Wladimir Misař, a mathematics professor.
Their twin daughters, Olga and Vera, were born a year later.
From 1908 Olga became involved in the Austrian women’s movement, speaking and lecturing to its many different sections. At this time she also began to write and publish her work. Central to her concerns was the role of women in the family and in much of her work she challenged traditional notions of family and gender roles.
She wrote on the advantages to women of communal living and shared work.
Olga also worked as a journalist and editor for The Austrian Society for the Protection of Motherhood where, among other things, she wrote about contraception for married women – a controversial topic in Catholic Austria.
During the First World War she was one of the few women in the General Austrian Union of Women who refused to support the war and saw it as their duty to engage in peace politics.
In 1919 she published “Towards New Ideals of Love” and a text on “sexual ethics” in which she focused on free love and offered proposals on how the responsibility for children should be organised between the genders.
When Austria and Germany came together in the Anschluss of 1938 life became difficult for the family so in April 1939 they arrived in Enfield near London where their daughter Olga and her husband Ernst Schwarz had settled the previous year. In March 1942 Wladimir and Olga Misař moved to 142 Newsome Road, Newsome.
Two years later they moved to 149 Lockwood Scar and lived there until 1948.
Olga’s sister Martha and her husband Guyla Rosenwald were already in Huddersfield. While in Huddersfield Olga continued to write and campaign and it’s probable that she was active in the Huddersfield branch of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and may even have joined the Women’s Co-operative Guild.
Olga Misař died of a heart attack in 1950. Her daughter Olga died in 1952 after which Wladimir returned to Vienna where he lived until his own death in 1963. Martha Rosenwald was living at Huddersfield’s George Hotel at the time of her death in 1946 as was her husband who died there in November 1951.
Austrian scholar Brigitte Roth is writing a biography about Olga and has now appealed for information.
She said: “A great deal is known about Olga’s time in Austria and about her writings. What is less well known is her life and work in England and especially in Huddersfield. If these notes strike a chord with anyone and summon up memories of an Austrian woman and her husband living in exile in Huddersfield in the 1940s do please let me know. I would be grateful for any information about her or her family.”
Anyone with information should contact Andrew Hirst at The Huddersfield Examiner at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01484 437761.