In the years following the end of the cold war in 1989, Western feminist scholars and activists expressed disappointment in the failure of the newly democratic Eastern and Central European countries to sustain mainstream women's rights movements and achieve a marked increase in women's participation within the new political parties and political life in general. The authors, historians of Hungarian women's movements with a broad East-West perspective, offer a novel explanation for this phenomenon. Following an outline of the main stages of Hungarian women's movements and women's political participation, they focus on two instances in twentieth-century Hungarian history that resulted in a rapid transition from anti-democratic regimes to liberal, parliamentary systems: the 1918 bourgeois democratic revolution and the 1990 re-introduction of free parliamentary elections. Examining these two turning points in recent Hungarian history, separated by 70 years, as case studies of women's activism, the authors propose a new, critical re-evaluation of the notion of separate spheres, offering a timely if co-incidental comment on the recent debate in the Journal of Women's History . 2 Research for this article had been completed by the time of the publication of the Spring 2003 issue of the Journal of Women's History, 15 (1), devoted to 'Rethinking Public and Private'. (Author) (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)