In the summer 2001 publication of our CSAGSI quarterly journal, the KORENY, on page 4, editor Paul Nemecek wrote an article on "Chicago's Bohemian Women's Publishing Company, 1900. Josefa Humpel-Zeman Editor." We have been able to find additional information on Josefa, and her contributions, mostly from Internet searching. We have a companion page which provides a chronology of Josefa's activities, with additional images.
Zenske Listy was established in 1894 by Josefa Humpal-Zeman in Chicago as the first Bohemian women's newspaper in the world. The Bohemian Women's Publishing Company that published the newspaper was later reorganized by fifty women as a stock company in 1895 and by 1899, the company published the paper on a weekly basis and produced programs, pamphlets, calling cards, tickets, and other items used by Czech businesses and professionals in Chicago. Mary Cunat (Marie Cunatova) served as president and Mary Blahnik (Marie Blahnikova) as vice-president of the company while Josefa Humpal-Zeman remained editor and general manager.
Note: Twenty years before Josefa Humpal Zeman began the Bohemian Women's Publishing Company and published the "Zenske Listy" in Chicago, a publication by the same name was already being published in Prague.
Any undertaking to just list the activities, and accomplishments of Josefa Humpal-Zeman pales by comparison to trying to describe each and every one of them. It is more than worthy of mention that she did all of this before she died at age thirty five.
Josefa Veronika Humpal was born on January 9, 1870 in Susice #57, Klatovy, Plzen, to Josef Humpal and Anna Srnka. (1) (View birth record) Josefa's father was born on January 19, 1825 at Jamny #21, Horni Zahori, Pisek. (2) Mother Anna was born around 1842. Josefa's parents were married on January 21, 1863 in Pisek. (3) Several siblings were also born in Bohemia.
The family would depart Bohemia and arrive in the USA in two separate groups. Father Josef, daughter Josefa, and father Josef's mother, Maria, would arrive in the United States at New York City, on June 8, 1874 aboard the ship Oder. (4) Mother, Anna, and children, Frantisek and Jaroslav, would arrive at New York City, on July 18 1874, on the same ship, the Oder. (5) There is an 1880 Census record for the family. Joseph and Anna, are living at 82 Fisk Street with children; Frank, 17, Josephine, 10, Jaroslav 6, and Rose 4. Father Joseph is listed as a barber. His mother, Mary, is not listed with the family. (6) (Image Mrs. Josefa Humpal-Zeman The Chicago Tribune, Sunday, December 11, 1898, Page 36.)
A number of resources used as references indicate that father Joseph was not very happy in Chicago, wishing for his children to have a strong educational foundation, so the family left for Bohemia in 1881. (7) The year 1881 is also the year that Joseph applied for a USA passport (8). The reference articles indicate that Josefa received a formal education while in Pisek.
Mother Anna died on July 18, 1883 in Pisek. (9) The family returned to the United States in 1883, arriving in New York City on October 3, aboard the ship Ethiopia. (10) Father Joseph remarried (Mary Kobes) shortly after the family's return, dying just three years later in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, leaving his children, still living in Chicago. (11) Only a few months after the death of her father, Josefa married Robert Zeman in Chicago, and in a short time Josefa and Robert had moved to Ohio. Editors Schultz and Hast provide details on their marriage, which lasted only for months, Josefa remaining in Cleveland and embarking on her career in journalism and a promoter of Czech women in all aspects of their lives. (12) The Editors describe the extensive activities of Josefa during her time in Cleveland, including; enrolling in the college for Women of the Western Reserve, helping edit its student paper, becoming active in the women's temperance activities, engaging in various social work activities in the city, and becoming secretary of the Czech Committee for Preparation Works of Czech Women at the Columbian World's Fair. By 1893, Josefa Humpal Zeman was on her way to Chicago. (13)
1893 and 1894 appear to be very busy years for Josefa. Editors Schultz and Hast continue to describe the work of Josefa at the World's Fair, including her working on the Bohemian Woman's exhibit with a bit of turmoil involving the mistaken sale of exhibit articles (Humpal - Zeman recovered those sale items). (14) Two books, published in 1894, list Josefa as a member of the Bohemia Foreign Advisory Council to the Fair. They also list two presentations Josefa made during the fair. One, "The Women of Bohemia", and the other, "Woman as a Social Leader". (15)
The doctoral dissertation by Gloria Lee McMillan, provides background information on how the World's Fair laid the foundation for the creation of Josefa's "Zensky Liste". Josefa collected thousands of signatures supporting the publication of a woman focused Bohemian language newspaper. With that accomplishment, she received support from a Bohemian woman's insurance association which allowed her dream of such a newspaper to become a reality in 1894. (16)
A very comprehensive doctoral thesis, which focuses on the work of Josefa Humpal Zeman, by Andrea Ondruskova, published in 2012, lists June 15, 1894 as the publication date for the first issue of Zensky Liste. From that thesis, using Google Translate, one can get a decent account. ... Women's Letters magazine was published on June 15, 1894 in Chicago with the subtitle "The Only One Czech magazine, published and edited by women, dedicated to the efforts of women, their activities in family and social life.... (17) The thesis also details Josefa's purchase of a printer for her paper, along with working conditions of the women employed, receiving the same wages as men in the printing field, and finishing work at 5pm and having a tea break. (18 )
Josefa Humpal-Zeman seems to have been energized after participating in the World's Fair, and establishing her newspaper. In short order she was enrolled in the University of Chicago, became a member of the Hull House settlement, helped write the Hull House newspaper, helped organize and speak at a large convention held at Thalia Hall and contributed an article "The Bohemian People in Chicago" in the publication, "Hull House Maps and Paper". All of this by 1895. (View the article in PDF Format) (19)
In the remaining years before the year 1900, the Bohemian Woman's Publishing Company would print a number of other items beside, the "Zenske Listy", (the article published by Schultz and Hast has a page with several pictures of the printing press used for their publications.) Josefa kept up a busy schedule her in editing, and visiting parts of the USA as a guest lecturer. (View PDF Articles - 1895 Josefa in Washington D.C. - 1896 Josefa is a guest presenter for Chicago's Political Equality League - In 1898, newspapers across the country contain articles which summarize the unusual event of Josefa being elected as the secretary of the all male National Slavic Press Association - In 1899, a Nebraska paper mentions Josefa is visiting the western states.
By the turn of the century, Editors Schultz and Hast describe that Josefa Humpal Zeman faced continuous opposition and commentary from other Czech language publications which were owned or edited by men. Feeling that this was not something which would help her own publication, Josefa left Zenske Listy and would spend most of her time, continuing her work, in Prague. (20)
Josefa remained busy. In the first few years of the new century, she had published two articles with a focus on the working men of Paris (21) including a book, "America in its true light." (22) Josefa became the executive secretary of the Women's Club in Prague. She returned to publishing a women's paper in 1904 with the formation of "Stastny Domu" (Happy Home). (23)
Josefa Humpal-Zeman died on April 23, 1906 in Prague. She is buried in the Olsany Cemetery in that city. Her grave site has a sculpture "The Soul Escapes" made by the sculptor Stanislav Sucharda. (Find A Grave #217841643)
While her death was announced in Prague, her story described in the "Stastny Domov", which she founded, and her funeral procession was of note, it appears that it mostly went unnoticed in the United States. (24) "Zenske Listy" would have an announcement in later issues, only one paper has been discovered so far, the Pokrok Zapadu, Tydennik Politicky, of Omaha, Nebraska, carried the notice of her death and a story of her life in its May, 2, 1906 edition.
We have a companion page which provides a chronology of Josefa's activities, with additional images.
(4) Year: 1874; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Line: 37; List Number: 584
(5) Year: 1874; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Line: 42; List Number: 779
(6) Year: 1880; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: 189; Page: 406D; Enumeration District: 055
(7) "Women Building Chicago 1790 - 1990", Editors Rima Lunin Schultz, Adele Hast, Indiana University Press, 2001, Pages 417 - 420.
Czech Wikipedia - https://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josefa_Humpalov%C3%A1_-_Zemanov%C3%A1
"Chicago Bohemian Women's Publishing company, 1900 - Josefa Humpel-Zeman, Editor" by Paul Nemecek, CSAGSI KORENY, Volume 5, Number 4, Pages 3-4, Sugar Grove, Illinois.
(8) "United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99DZ-CSS3-R?cc=2185145&wc=3XCT-RMQ%3A1056306401%2C1056372701 : 22 December 2017), (M1372) Passport Applications, 1795-1905 > Roll 243, vol 540-541, 1881 Aug-Sep > image 291 of 1108; citing NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.)
(10) Year: 1883; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Line: 2; List Number: 1268
(11) Marriage of Joseph Humpal and Mary Kobes - Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index, 1871-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Death of Joseph Humpal - Milwaukee Public Library; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Milwaukee Vital Records; Call Number: 929.3
(12) "Women Building Chicago 1790 - 1990", Editors Rima Lunin Schultz, Adele Hast, Indiana University Press, 2001, Pages 417 - 420.
(15) "The Congress of Women, Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition", Editor Mary Kavanaugh Oldam Eagle, Western W. Wilson Publishers, New York, 1894. "The World's Congress of Representative Women", Rand McNally Publisher, Chicago, 1894.
(16) "From 'Spoken of' To Speakers: Chicago Immigrant Women's Writing: 1890 - 1940 by Gloria Lee McMillan - Dissertation - Department of English, University of Arizona - 2003. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280156563_From_%27Spoken_of%27_to_speakers_Chicago_immigrant_women%27s_writing_1890-1940)
(17) "Časopis Ženské Listy a život českých žien v Amerike v rokoch 1894-1901" - https://is.cuni.cz/webapps/zzp/detail/108657/?lang=en. Page 55.
(18 ) "Časopis Ženské Listy a život českých žien v Amerike v rokoch 1894-1901" - https://is.cuni.cz/webapps/zzp/detail/108657/?lang=en. Page 81.
(19) "Hull House Maps and Papers" by Residents of Hull House, Publisher Thomas Y. Crowell, Boston, 1895, Pages 115 to 130.
(20) "Women Building Chicago 1790 - 1990", Editors Rima Lunin Schultz, Adele Hast, Indiana University Press, 2001, Pages 419.
(21) The Labor Champion, Topeka, Kansas, Friday, April 11, 1902, Page 6.
(22) "The Cechs in America: A Study of their national, cultural, political, economic and religious life", Thomas Capek, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York 1920, Page 202.
(23)" Šťastný Domov - časopis věnovaný českým ženám a domácnostem" - Happy home magazine dedicated to Czech women and households - Publisher, Prague, Czech Republic, F. Šimáček, 1904-1929.
(24) Váženým dámám odběratelkám Šťastného po úmrtí paní Josefy Humpal-Zemanové! " Šťastný Domov - časopis věnovaný českým ženám a domácnostem" - Happy home magazine dedicated to Czech women and households - Publisher, Prague, Czech Republic, F. Šimáček, 5-1-1906, Pages 1 - 2.