Narcyza Żmichowska (also known under the pseudonym Gabryella) was born on 4 March 1814 in Warsaw into a lower middle-class family. She was a Polish poetess and novelist, the author of manuals and pedagogical works, a democratic activist connected with the women_s emancipation movement. She is considered to be one of the precursors of feminism in Poland. She died in Warsaw on 25 December 1876.
Narcyza Żmichowska was a very well educated woman in her times. She studied in Paris, in Biblioteque Nationale, and was one of the first women to attend the sittings of the French Academy (L'Academie de Francais). The excellent education that she received helped her to find job as a private teacher to children in a Polish aristocratic house.
Narcyza Żmichowska came back to Warsaw in 1839 where she entered into a close relationship with a group of young writers who later formed the group of so-called Female Enthusiasts (Entuzjastki). She published her articles in the magazines 'Pilgrim' and 'Scientific Report'. In 1842-1849 Żmichowska ran a small village school and also wrote her biggest work 'Poganka'. In 1846 she moved back to Warsaw and opened a private school for girls in Miodowa Street. In her life she was often involved in conspirational activities against Prussian supression. In 1849 she was arrested and placed in the Carmelite nunnery in Lublin; released in 1852, she was sentenced to an obligatory stay in Lublin under police surveillance. Narcyza Żmichowska was allowed to return to Warsaw in 1855 where she worked as a private teacher, then lectured in Geography in the Institute for Young Ladies. After the January Uprising she left for Paris again and studied at Paris Sorbonne. The last years of her life were spent in the Polish countryside. Narcyza Żmichowska died in Warsaw on 25 December 1876 and was buried in Powązki.
Narcyza Żmichowska is remembered as a poetess and a novelist, the authoress of pedagogical works, a democracy activist as well as a leading figure in the women's emancipation movement.`She wrote the school curriculum for girls'schools. Her famous quote said, 'Learn if you can, be able if you can and be ready to manage in life on your own, also remember that if you are in trouble there might be no one to help you.' Due to this aim she postulated two kinds of educational paths for girls. Practical education for those who wanted to devote their lives to their family and children, and an academic education for the more talented girls. The school curriculum consisted of 5 subjects, Arithmetic, Geography, Nature, History and Foreign Languages. Girls were mainly encouraged to develop independent thinking, synthesis and drawing conclusions.
Narcyza Zmichowska played a great and prominent part in promoting the role and importance of women's education in society. Her ideas and views are influencial even today.