Šárka B. Hrbkova

 “I should be ashamed if I could not speak to my mother in the language in which she first spoke to me, but I should be equally ashamed, if my mother had not seen to it that I received an education in English, the language of my country.”

Šárka B. Hrbková

Chair of Slavonic Studies at the University of Nebraska Lincoln 1908-1919, in an address held July 4, 1917 in Krug Park Omaha (Kučera, 52).

 In the image on the left is Šárka B. Hrbkova as a graduate student at the University as well as the chairman of the Slavic Languages department. She is in the top row second from the right. She graduated with her M. A. in 1914. The image of the right is from 1919 the year she was dismissed from the University and the Slavonic Department was discontinued.

Šárka B. Hrbková, the sister of the first chairman Jeffery D. Hrbek, took the place of her brother after his sudden death during his first semester at the University in 1907 (Rosicky, 401). The program was not off to a good start with the long struggle to establish it followed by the demise of its first instructor in (Rosicky, 427). Like her brother she too hailed from Cedar Rapids Iowa and also attended the State University of Iowa. There she earned her B.A. in 1909. Previously she taught in the public schools of Cedar Rapids from 1895-1906 as well as organizing the first night school for foreigners in the region (Rosicky, 401). During the summer of 1908 the University of Nebraska contacted her about filling the position previously occupied by her brother. She began teaching in the fall of the 1908 (Fossler).

Šárka Hrbková was with the University from 1908-1919. In this era Czech was referred to as Bohemian and was eventually taught alongside Russian in the Slavonic Department. Under Hrbková’s chairmanship, the Slavonic program grew from eight courses in 1907 to twenty by 1919 (University of Nebraska Bulletin, 1908: 247-248; 1918: 517-519). In addition to her role as a professor during World War I she was appointed to chair the Women’s Committee of the Nebraska State Council of Defense from 1918-1919 (Rosicky, 402). Her career at the University came to an end following a health related leave of absence in Los Angles California (Avery). During this leave of absence the Board of Regents at the University decided to discontinue the Czech program (Avery). The Board maintained low enrolment was the impetus for this decision.

Hrbková went on to challenge the Board of regents allegations that the Slavic program was under utilized by students while she remained in California. Her involvement in the Nebraska State Council of Defense during World War I may have been the issue causing this abrupt change in the administrations attitude toward the program. In a letter written to Chancellor Samuel Avery she links her involvement in the Council of Defense and the 1918 loyalty trials of University staff members to the discontinuation of the program (Hrbková). The war may have been over but the wounds of the University had not healed.

Šárka ultimately left her position at the University. She took a position in New York City as the manager of the Czechoslovak Bureau of the Foreign Language Information Service (Rosicky, 402). During her lifetime she published numerous translations of Czech literature as well as writing about immigration, Americanization and Czech-American and Czech history. She was the first woman to chair what is now the Czech Language program. In 1976 Věra Stromšíková-Petráčková became the second woman to chair the program, followed by Dr. Míla Šašková-Pierce in 1989 (Šašková-Pierce, 2).