(Johanna Emilija Lizete Rozenberg, 1865-1943)
Poetess, playwrightess, social worker – an exceptionally brilliant, diverse and contradictory personality, who threw out a challenge to the society starting with her very first published poem in the newspaper “Daily paper” (“Dienas Lapa”), signing it with the pen-name of Aspasia (Aspazija) - Ancient Greek feminist and the beloved woman of the statesman Pericles (Perīkls).
The poetess was born on March 16, 1865 to a wealthy Semigalian (Zemgales) peasant family, at a farmstead “Daukšas”, located at a rural community Zaļenieki. She studied at the Jelgava Doroteja’ s school for girls and the Jelgava Trinity woman’s gymnasium (1874-1884), in 1893 Aspazija moved to Riga and begun working at the Latvian Theater in Riga (Rīgas Latviešu teātris), where in 1894 her plays “Vaidelote” and “Lost Rights”(“Zaudētās tiesības”) were staged. This is when she met Jānis Pliekšāns, who was at the time the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Daily paper” (“Dienas Lapa”). Aspazija’s first collection of poetry, titled “Red Flowers” (“Sarkanās puķes”), was published in 1897 and gained a wide response in the public. Aspazija is in the center of attention and the most noticed Latvian woman in the social and literature live of 1990s. After the destruction of the “The New Current” (“Jaunā strāva”) movement, Rainis is arrested. They get married on the 21st December of 1897 – shortly before he was send in exile. Hereafter Aspazija is fully sharing his dramatic fate of being a political prisoner and the banishment, where it is hard not to evaluate creative “guardianship”, moral support and practical help too high. After the exile in Slobodska (Russia), Rainis returns to the homeland in 1903. At the time of the Russian Revolution of 1905 Aspazija is actively taking part in different mass events together with Rainis, and the play of her drama “Silver Veil” (“Sidraba šķidrauts”) became one of the most noticeable moments of the Latvian spiritual and National Awakening. With the start of the repressions, near the end of 1905, Aspazija and Rainis emigrated to Switzerland, where they live in a small village Castagnola, in the Swiss canton of Ticino, near the city of Lugano. After returning to Latvia, Aspazija gets nominated for the Constitutional Assembly of Latvia, she takes part in the creation of the Latvian Republic and actively protects the rights of women. Aspazija died on the 5th November, 1943. The lyrical poetry and symbolic drama plays written by Aspazija have become a classic of our Latvian literature. In total, the poetess has written 12 poem anthologies and 14 drama plays. Aspazija’s contribution to the Latvian culture has been evaluated with the Order of the Three Stars (1926), Second Class of The Cross of Recognition (1938) and the highest national award – the Fatherland Award (Tēvzemes balva) (1939). In the year 1936 in Prague the fundamental work “Outstanding Women of Our Time” was published – 64 women from 24 different countries were portrayed in it, among them Aspazija as well. In the 2004 survey about the 100 most notable Latvian people of all time Aspazija placed 20th.