Although when asked to list the country’s most important historical figures, Hungarians would seldom think of including a couple of ladies in their lineup, the days of old did produce produce their fair share of influential women – many of whom live on as namesakes for the streets and squares of Budapest.
The Szilágyi Erzsébet promenade in Buda, for example, bears the name of the militant mother of King Matthias of Hungary, famous amazon and widow of John Hunyadi, the triumphant hero of the Siege of Belgrade. After the loathsome execution of his older son, László, by King Ladislaus the Posthumous, Erzsébet swore revenge and through her motherly ways brought the entire kingdom onto the brink of a civil war. A couple of days after the king fled the country for Prague, Ladislaus died unexpectedly, and the young Matthias was crowned King of Hungary.
If someone’s popularity is measured by the variety of public venues that were named after them, then it’s safe to say that Szent Margit (Saint Margaret) of the House of Árpád is one of the city’s most revered women. Margaret Bridge, Margit utca, Margit körút and Margaret Island have all been named after the holy virgin daughter of King Béla IV and Maria Laskarina, and who, by the way, is the niece of another Hungarian saint, St. Elizabeth. Margit was born in Dalmatia during the Mongol invasion of Hungary, and was offered by his father to serve God in hopes that the Lord would save the kingdom. She had spent her life in a convent on Margaret Island (then named Island of the Rabbits), praying, working and helping the poor, while refusing to break her celibate vows for suitors. She died at 27 years of age, but her rose-scented body did not start to decompose until three weeks after her death.
In case you’re looking for the long-lost milieu of 19th century Budapest, take a trek through downtown’s Veres Pálné utca, a narrow street situated just a few corners from the FUNZINE headquarters. The comfy street is named after pedagogue Pálné Veres (née Hermin Beniczky), the pioneer of women’s education in Hungary, prominent feminist of her time (mind you, this was in the 1840s!), renowned promoter of women’s rights, and founder of the country’s first secondary school for women.