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Božena Němcová was born Barbara Pankel or Barbora Panklová in Vienna, Austria. Her father Johann Pankel was a coachman from Lower Austria and her mother Teresie Novotná was of Bohemian origin. She was raised near the small town of Ratibořice on the East Bohemian estate of the famous Duchess Catherine Wilhelmine of Sagan and went to school in Skalica. Her maternal grandmother, Magdalena Novotná, had a great influence on her life. Němcová would later use the town as the setting for her famous novel Babička (Grandmother, 1855), with a main character inspired by her own grandmother. At age 17, she made an arranged marriage to Josef Němec, a customs officer 15 years her senior, with whom she had four children. The union was unhappy and the couple would eventually separate. In 1842, the family moved to Prague, where Němcová met writers and intellectuals and began to write and publish herself. Němcová and her family moved frequently for her husband's work. In the early 1850s, she travelled by herself across Bohemia and into Slovakia, gathering folklore and ethnographic material that she used in her writing. She became romantically involved with a number of men. Němcová became active in the Czech National Revival cultural movement. Her husband was politically active in Czech nationalism and lost his job, causing them to fall into poverty and illness. She died in 1862, at age 41, having published two novels, some short stories and poems, and numerous collections of folktales and legends; very little of this has been translated into English. Babička became one of the best-loved works in Czech literature and has been adapted several times into films.
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