Continuing the series on influential Croatian women throughout history, I’m bringing you the story of Dragojla Jarnević- one of Croatia’s most prolific writers and fiercest patriots during the national revival movement in the 19th century.

Dragolja was born in 1812 in Karlovac. She worked as a teacher and governess which supported her understanding and knowledge of women’s rights issues. Through her writing and her fierce personality that refused to sit on the sidelines and let things just be, she brought attention to the need to improve girls’ education. 

She worked as a teacher in Graz, Trieste and Venice before returning to Karlovac. She attempted to establish a private all-girls school in Karlovac, and then taught children in her own home. Whilst she spoke for women's independence, she also cited the importance of ensuring that women are educated in order to create structure and understanding of what it means to be a successful, independent person. 

She was a profound voice for women in the Illyrian movement and demonstrated the need for women to engage in socio-political events. 

Whilst in Graz in 1839, she came upon a statue with Croatian poetry on it. Excited, she wrote the next few verses. Soon enough, she met the writer: Ivan Trnski (the greatest lyrical poet of the Illyrian Movement) and the pair became close friends (their life-long relationship is worthy of a book in itself). It was he who encouraged her ideas, helped her solidify her political identity & advised her to stop writing in German and write in Croatian. 

She wrote and published patriotic poems and essays. She also wrote novels and was often published in newspapers. Her novel, Dva Pira, represents the first attempts to write a novel as a literary genre in the period of recent Croatian literature. As such, she is known as one of the founders of prose in Croatia. 

Oh, and if this wasn’t enough, she is also considered the first Croatian mountaineer and rock climber. In 1843, she climbed the Okić peak from the southern, steeper side of Plešivica mountain without any mountaineering gear!

P.S I’ll be doing a post on the Illyrian Movement in the near future so keep an eye out for that!