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Horwitz-Kancewiczowa, Kamila

(1879–1952), Polish socialist activist, feminist, and psychiatrist. Kamila Horwitz-Kancewiczowa was born in Warsaw to a middle-class Jewish family in which both Polish and Yiddish were spoken. After completing gymnasium in Warsaw, she went abroad in 1898 to study medicine, first in Berlin and then in Zurich, and became active on the Foreign Committee of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS).

After receiving her medical degree in 1904, Horwitz-Kancewiczowa returned to Warsaw and joined that city’s Workers Committee of the PPS. She was active in the party’s Jewish Section, and, during antiwar demonstrations in November 1904, was arrested for leading an illegal gathering of Jewish workers. In March 1905, Horwitz-Kancewiczowa was a delegate at the PPS’s Seventh Party Congress, and was elected to the Jewish Committee, the section created in 1902 to represent Jews on the central committee.

In 1906, Horwitz-Kancewiczowa attended two conferences of the party’s Jewish Section, and she supported an official resolution that favored recognizing Jews as a separate nationality entitled to collective rights. When the PPS split into left and right factions in the fall of 1906, Horwitz-Kancewiczowa and her brother Maksymilian Horwitz became major figures within the PPS–Left. When the Jewish Section dissolved in 1907, Horwitz-Kancewiczowa left for Switzerland, where she worked at a psychiatric clinic for three years and took up similar work in Paris between 1910 and 1914.

Returning to independent Poland, Horwitz-Kancewiczowa joined the Polish Communist Party (KPP) and actively defended women’s rights. From 1923 to 1929, she headed the KPP’s women’s division and edited its organ, Robotnica. That decade, she served as a delegate at two international women’s conferences abroad.

Horwitz-Kancewiczowa settled in Soviet Russia in 1930, after the Polish government began its crackdown on communism. In 1937, she was arrested for belonging to the KPP (Stalin had expelled the party from the Comintern) and was subsequently imprisoned in the USSR until 1944. Upon her return to Poland in 1945, she was appointed vice director of the State Psychiatric Institute in Warsaw, a position she held until her death. She remained politically active and served as a delegate at the founding congress of the United Polish Workers Party in 1948.

Horwitz-Kancewiczowa’s political writings include Robotnica w Polsce (The Woman Worker in Poland), a text on the conditions of women in the Polish labor movement, which was published in Moscow in 1930. She also wrote several articles that were printed in leading Polish journals of psychiatry and psychology. Her only son, Jan Kancewicz (1917– ), of Warsaw, is a distinguished historian of the Polish and Jewish labor movements.

Suggested Reading

“Horwitz-Kancewiczowa Kamila,” Słownik biograficzny działaczy polskiego ruchu robotniczego, ed. Janin Balcerzak and Feliks Tych, vol. 2, pp. 556–557 (Warsaw, 1987); “Kancewiczowa z Horwitzów Kamilla,” Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. 11, pp. 599–600 (Warsaw, Wrocław, Kraków, 1964–1965); Henryk Piasecki, Żydowska Organizacja PPS: 1893–1907 (Wrocław, 1978).