Women in Croatian History

croatian women


Position of women in Croatia has changed tremendously in the last several decades. However, when talking of history the role of women in Croatian society has been greatly overseen. One simple illustration is naming the city streets and squares. According to the research, out of 70 squares in Croatia capital city Zagreb only 3 are named after women. It is necessary to raise awareness of the importance of women in Croatian history in order to achieve gender equality we are all so eagerly chasing today.


Marija Jurić Zagorka

marija juric zagorka

Marija Jurić Zagorka, Croatian journalist and writer,  is  genuine witness of position of women in Croatian history.

Marija was born in 1873. and became first female journalist and one of the most read writers in Croatia. At her time, journalism was highly unusual career for women and for that reason she was forced to write anonymously. At the same time she was running two magazines and publishing historic novels. Many of Zagreb legends are based upon her mysterious characters and plots placed in the heart of old Zagreb.

In spite of being humiliated and prejudiced on the base of her gender, Marija never stopped fighting against the Germanization and Magyarization of Croatia and standing up for the rights of women.

That “madwoman” and “mannish old hag” as her male colleagues used to call her today is an essential part of Croatian history.

When visiting Zagreb make sure to stop by the lady with the pungent pen, the life-sized statue of Marija Jurić Zagorka proudly standing in Tkalčićeva Street in Zagreb city centre. Even though she came second in the list of most popular Croatian writers of all time you’ve probably never heard of her because none of her novels has been translated into English. Why? Judge for yourself.


Ivana Brlic Mazuranic

women in croatia

Ivana Brlić Mažuranić, Croatian Anderson as she is often called, wrote some of the most beautiful children’s fairy tales.

She was born in 1874. to a well-known Croatian family.  Ivana is the best writer in Croatian  children’s  literature recognized by both national and foreign critics. Some of her most famous works are Croatian Tales of Long Ago (Priče iz davnine) a famous Croatian collection of eight children’s stories and The Marvelous Adventures and Misadventures of Hlapić the Apprentice (Čudnovate zgode šegrta Hlapića). 

Ivana’s ability to write completely new fairy tales based on Slavic mythology is why many compare her to  Hans Christian Andersen and Tolkien. She was nominated for the Nobel prize for literature four times and became first women accepted as a Corresponding Member into the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Ivana’s birthplace, city of Ogulin, today hosts a museum named Ivana’s House of Fairy Tales. It is a unique interactive museum, situated in medieval castle, which celebrates fairy tales and their makers.


Slava Raskaj

croatian painter

Slava Raškaj is Croatian painter of the late 19th and early 20th Century.

Often perceived as merely fragile female in the time when critics treated women’s art as a mere recreation, Slava’s work stands side by side with the most famous Croatian artists of all time. However, it was not until after her death that her work became widely acknowledged by Croatian art historians.

Born deaf, she adopted art in early age as way of communication with the world. She came to be one of the greatest Croatian watercolorist who enjoyed plein air painting technique. Her distinguished style and sensitivity is best seen in what became a certain trademark of Slava Raškaj – a series of paintings of water lilies painted in the Botanical Garden in Zagreb. What made her work unique is the fact that she didn’t side with imitating male artists which surrounded her, rather she endorsed her female intuition in creating translucent magical landscapes and capturing the moment.

Darkening of her palette and motiv of ruins foretold her diagnose of chronic depression. She was institutionalized in psychiatric hospital in 1902 where she ended her life at the age of 25.

Works of Slava Raškaj have been exhibited in Paris, Vienna and Moscow and today the her greatest collection can be seen in her birthplace Ozalj and Modern Gallery in Zagreb.


croatian art



Alphabet of famous women in Croatian history


Ana Katarina Zrinski – Croatian noblewoman and poet from 17th Century known as patron of the arts and political activist

Blaženka Despot – Croatian philosopher and sociologist who left an indelible mark on feminist philosophy in Croatia

Cvijeta Zuzorić – Ideal of Renaissance women from Dubrovnik known for many legends of her beauty

Dora Pejačević – Croatian composer from nobile family who introduced the first modern symphony in Croatia

Gracioza Lovrenčević – Croatian 16th Century poet

Henriette Theodora Marković known as Dora Maar – surrealist photographer who was muse of Pablo Picasso

Ivana Lang – Croatian 20th Century composer

Jelena Zrinski – Croatian noblewoman known as the greatest national heroine due to her resistance to Habsburg absolutism

Katarina Kosača Kotromanić – Last queen of Bosnia and important figure in Catholic history

Lynda Sklevicky – Croatian ethnologist, feminist theorist and sociologist known for representing Croatian science in the world

Ljerka Šram – Actress from late 19th and early 20th Century known as the most beautiful women of Zagreb

Mia Čorak Slavenska – Prima ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera Balet in New York

Nives Kavurić Kurtović – One of the greatest Croatian 20th Century female painters

Ozana Kotorska – First women with Croatian origins in Catholic Church to be beatified

Paula Preradović – Writer and poet known for composing the lyrics for the national anthem of Austria, “Land der Berge, Land am Strome”

Ruža Pospiš Baldini – Croatian opera singer who performed at prestigious world stages like Metropolitan Opera

Savka Dabčević Kučar – The most influential Croatian female politician during the communist period

Teresa Recchini – Croatian baroque painter from 18th Century

Vesna Parun – one of the most notable Croatian 20th Century poets

Zinka Kunc – Most famous Croatian opera singer who had a major career in Metropolitan Opera in New York


PHOTO: Flickr, Zagreb Library,