Marija Jurić Zagorka

(1873 – 1957)
journalist, writer, playwright
Yugoslav Academy of Science and Arts

Marija Jurić Zagorka (1873 – 1957) was the first Croatian professional woman journalist, political reporter, popular writer and feminist. She wrote her first literary works while at the Girls’ Secondary School in Zagreb. Her engagement in journalism had her parents cut her education short and force her to marry. She fled from her abusive husband and, with the help of Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, and against the will of some journalists and editors, she got a job in Obzor, an influential daily political newspaper. During her 20 years there, she reported on various European events and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy parliamentary sessions in Zagreb, Budapest and Vienna, advocated for women’s and human rights, and critically reviewed the political situation. Amid anti Count Khuen-Héderváry demonstrations, she and a group of like-minded women organized the first women’s demonstrations in Croatia. She was the editor-in-chief of Obzor for five months and was eventually arrested for her political activities. She was one of the founders of Ženski list in 1925 and, after retiring from its editorial board, in 1939 she started her own women’s magazine, Hrvatica, banned in 1941 by the Ustasha authorities. However, despite her journalistic and activist work, she became known to a wider audience for her historical novels. For each novel, she researched archival material and visited many European cities and castles in search of inspiration and historical data. Some of her most famous novels include Grička vještica, Gordana, Republikanci, and Plameni inkvizitori. She also wrote the first Croatian crime novel, Kneginja iz Petrinjske ulice, and her novel Crveni ocean contains many elements of a science fiction novel. Her novels primarily had an educational function – encouraging Croats to read in their mother tongue and to learn more about their own history and culture, and setting an example for women through strong, active and politically aware heroines.

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