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  • Ilinca Stroe

“She drew beauty from anything she did and spread it around her”. Maria Rosetti’s gifts to Romania

It’s probably challenging to give body to the spirit of a country and the spirit of an age. And yet that’s what Maria Rosetti (and painter Constantin Daniel Rosenthal) did. Together, one with her physique, the other – with his brush, they incarnated the soul of revolutionary Romania around the historic year 1848: its freshness of project, its modernising élan, its fantastic determination and power to hope. It was not the first time (and it was certainly not going to be the last time) when a foreigner adopted by this country and an ethnic minority artist did Romania an impressive artistic, no less than social and political, service.

So where did Maria, the iconic image of revolutionary Romania, actually come from? She was born Marie Grant in Guernsey, Scotland, to a Scottish captain and a French woman. She grew up in Provence and in 1938 followed her brother to Wallachia, where he worked as the British consul there, and she – as a governess to colonel Ioan Odobescu’s children, of whom Alexandru was to become an important writer. She fell in love with Romania as passionately as the other great Marie of this country (Queen Marie of Romania, 1875-1938). With Romania and… with Constantin Rosetti, a prominent politician in 1840s Wallachia whom she married in 1847.

Not only did she agree with her husband’s great political project, the unification of the Romanian principalities into one modern independent state, Romania, but she actively joined that cause, making her house into a vibrant hub for the country’s revolutionary intelligentsia (“forty-eighters” like Nicolae Bălcescu, Cezar Bolliac, Ion C. Brătianu). Not only did she love her husband, but she gave him as many as eight children, of whom their firstborn, a daughter, they named Liberty in honour of their patriotic ideals. Not only did she learn the language of her adoptive country, but she became the first Romanian woman journalist, writing regular pieces for Românul, the leading newspaper of Romanian liberalism, and founding her own weekly magazine, Mama și copilul (Mother and child).

A foreigner in a country-in-the-making, this extraordinary woman spared no energy to commit herself to a family project which she regarded as a national project: “You are mothers, and so am I. Your children are Romanian. Mine too. Both yours, and mine have a common mother: Romania,” she wrote in her magazine. Her self-generated patriotism, willing and fully responsible, clear of any trace of demagoguery, was based on sheer conviction, sheer determination and admirable involvement. She was well familiar with the country’s problems (child mortality, poverty, illiteracy in villages and cities) and she came up with solutions, dedication and action to help solve them. An early feminist, she also championed female emancipation and supported women’s rights in a blatantly patriarchal society.

Romanian by choice. Revolutionary leader. Mother. Writer. Activist. Who said Romanian girls and women today didn’t have role models worth embracing?

International House Bucharest, through its Romanian Language Department, runs online and face-to-face Romanian courses and cultural integration workshops for foreigners living in Romania or interested in the country’s culture, language or history. For more information, click here. To enrol, contact You can also watch our video series “Your Romanian Class” and subscribe to our YouTube channel, or listen to our series of podcasts “Ascultă româneşte”.

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