Maria (Marie) showed a great determination since in her times women were not allowed to study at the Polish universities under the Russian rule. Marie has to work, save money and go to Paris to be able to pursue her dream.
In the series of articles, which are started in today issue, I will try to present her life how it really was, with the limitations of these times, but also with a unique potential for new discoveries by hard-working and talented scientists who were discovering new laws of science by use of newly available technology.
Maria (Mania) was born November 7, 1867 in Warsaw to Bronislawa and Wladyslaw Sklodowski. Her both parents were well educated. This was not long after November Uprising of 1963 in which Poles fought for the independence from the Russian tzar and Russian empire rule. Maria was the youngest from five children having one brother and three sisters. Maria's mother - Bronislawa, maiden name, Boguska, was of noble birth. Felix Boguski, her grandfather owned some land, but in order to provide for his family he had to administer the lands of richer aristocrats since their own land was not big enough. Bronislawa received a good education in a private school for women and then became a professor and later a director of the same school for girls.
Wladislaw Sklodowski, Maria's father, was also a part of minor noble family that originally owned land in a village Sklody, about a hundred km North from Warsaw. Wladislaw was the first intellectual in his family. He went to study in St. Petersburg and then came back to teach mathematics and physics in Warsaw.
Maria's mother showed the signs of tuberculosis, a deadly disease in these times, shortly after Mania was born. In order not to infect her children, her only love gesture towards Mania, her youngest daughter, was to run her fingers over Mania forehead. Mania never remembers being kissed by her mother, although this is sad, it helped to save her life. According to the doctor advice, Bronislawa was sent to Austrian Alps and later to Nice. Since Sklodowski's could not afford the nurse, Zosia, the oldest daughter accompanied her mother in these travels. In that time Wladyslaw, Maria's father took care of the younger children.
The Sklodowski Children (left to right) Zosia, Hela, Manya (the youngest), Joseph, and Bronya
Mania showed unusual talent since she was very young. When Bronia, her older sister, was trying to learn the alphabet and played a teacher to Mania, it was Mania who started reading the sentences from the book at the age of 4. Mania and her sisters originally attended the Freta Street School that was run by her mother. In 1867 Wladislaw was appointed assistant director in Russian gymnasium in Novolipki Street. The family moved closer to this school, Mania's mother gave up being a headmistress of Freta school, moved girls to a different school closer to their new apartment. All girls participated in the conspiracy since the school had a double schedule teaching them Polish history and literature that was officially banned by Russian authorities. Since this school was closely monitored by Russian officials the communication system was invented so that the Polish books were replaced by Russian books in the case of the inspection. Since Mania was the most talented girl in the class who also knew Russian perfectly, she was usually chosen to answer the Russian inspector questions.
In 1873 Wladislaw was abruptly fired from the school after the head inspector discovered that he teaches boys Polish. Sklodowski's family had to leave their apartment also. Wladislaw decided to rent a house and to open a boarding school for boys. One of the boys infected Mania's sisters - Bronia and Zosia with thyphoid. Bronia finally recovered but Zosia, the oldest, died early in 1874. In May of 1878 Bronislawa, Mania's mother finally succumbed to tuberculosis and died. Mania earlier prayed and offered her own life for the mother, so when this happened she felt betrayed by God and stopped believing in God's benevolence. Mania was only 11 years when she lost her mother.
Read about Maria Sklodowska’s Adolescence in Poland
Baba Jaga Corner