The Alexandrian women – life in Egypt and at home
The article presents the author’s research into the phenomenon of the Alexandrian Women carried out in the villages of Prvačina, Gradišče above Prvačina, Bilje, Bukovica, Zalošče, Šempas, and Šempeter near Nova Gorica. The Alexandrian Women were women and girls from Goriška who found employment in Egypt. Rich and well-educated European families started to move to Egypt after the construction of the Suez Canal (1869), and the first girls from Goriška accompanied the families from Trieste and Milan which employed them to Alexandria or Cairo. In Goriška they are often also referred to as “our Egyptian women”. From the 1880s onwards, the number of girls and women who left for Egypt from Goriška increased steeply. Historical sources indeed indicate that about 4500 Slovene women lived in Alexandria before the Second World War, and 1500 in Cairo. They served with rich European, most often Jewish, families as wet nurses, room maids, baby sitters and also as governesses and chaperons to the wives of rich businessmen. The article covers the period of this phenomenon from 1925 to 1958. It also includes stories from children and grandchildren of Alexandrian Women to the present day. The article describes life in Egypt and at home in Slovenia as recalled by three generations. The material from the author’s fi eld research is here presented for the first time; it mainly consists of material from the intangible heritage including memories and stories by informants, preserved as documentary audio records.