Plzeňské sympozia

Milena Secká – Martin Šámal

The Social Awareness of vojta and Josefa Náprstek

pp. 190–201 (Czech), Summary p. 202 (English)

Vojta Náprstek (1826 – 1894) was in his time a prominent Prague philanthropist. A major role in the development of his attitudes had doubtless been played by family upbringing, and most notably by the role-model influence of his mother, widely known in Prague as “the Kind Lady of the Halámeks”, as was the name of the family’s residence. Náprstek’s social awareness first became obvious while he was still a student, in Prague and later in Vienna, and  stayed with him through the period of his American stay. Once there, he took a keen interest not only in the living conditions and lifestyle of the continent’s new settlers, but also, as a democratically-minded individual, in the emancipatory movement for the rights of native Americans and the African slave population. After his return home, he was among the first to champion in public the establishment of socially beneficial institutions, and addressed the general public in Prague in a series of lectures informing about similar institutions and the work of major philanthropists active in particular in the Anglo-American context. He set an example inspiring involvement in  charitable work by his friends and members of Prague’s American Ladies Club. Beyond that, he was active on social issues in his capacity as a Prague city councillor, where he dealt with problems or public hygiene, education, or socially beneficial institutions. Throughout his endeavours he enjoyed the support of his wife, Josefa (1838 – 1907), whose charitable work is documented only indirectly, by her correspondence. After her husband’s death, she continued to extend help to the needy without distinction as to nationality or creed. With assistance from friends, she managed to organize even large-scale international campaigns (e.g., relief aid by Czech expatriates in America to victims of natural disasters), and herself became a role model for the younger generations’ engagement in  charitable projects.

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