Settled in the nineteenth century, a period of national liberation, this book presents facts about the contribution of women to Serbian culture. The story is, however, of an equal contemporary as well as of historical relevance: work of these authors remained hidden as they were neither adequately evaluated in school curriculums and textbooks, nor recognized by the general public. Does the absence from textbooks and literary histories imply their literature is not worth reading? Or, that the histories of literature are simply biased and inadequate? The answers to these questions are elaborated in this book. The author carefully investigates the strategies of historians and official politics of remembrance, arguing that the link between women's education and emancipation of the society has yet to be properly explained. The reader, whether a student, researcher, social scientist, or an intellectual interested in the history, social development, literature, or politics of Serbia, or the Balkan in general, will benefit from the numerous original sources consulted. This book is a reminder that understanding society means uncovering the hidden and giving voice to the ignored, providing evidence that contradicts dominant theories, rather than simply repeating what we are told.
Svetlana Tomić is associate professor at Alfa BK University.
List of Figures
Introduction: Recovering the Historical Facts and the New Women in Serbian Culture
I. The New Women and Their Cultural Contributions
1. Draga Gavrilović, the First Serbian Female Novelist: The Old and New Interpretations
2. Queen Natalija Obrenović: The Complexity of Her Public Engagements and Her Different Contributions to Serbian Society and Culture
3. Milka Aleksić Grgurova: An Actress Taking on the World of Writing
4. Jelena J. Dimitrijević, A World-Traveler: The Authority of the New Women’s Knowledge
II. Some of the Men Who Supported New Women
5. Dragutin Ilić and Queen Natalija
6. Uroš Predić and Danica Bandić
III. The Construction, Reconstruction, and Deconstruction of Memory of New Women
7. Rediscovering Serbian Women’s Memoirs: Gendered Comparison in a Historical Context
8. A Bibliography: A Tool for Reconstructing the History of Women Translators
9. From a Ruined Tomb to the First Public Monument Dedicated to a Woman: Constructing the Memory of the First Serbian Poetess
10. The Remembering Project: The First Album of Famous Women in Serbian Culture
About the Author
Scholar and editor Svetlana Tomić has compiled a book outlining the selective, biased, and deliberate ignorance that Serbian critics and cultural gatekeepers have imposed on the biographies and achievements of Serbian women—making clear that women who were admired in their time truly deserve our attention today. This book will interest feminists, scholars of women’s history and writing, specialists in Slavic Studies, and general readers who will wonder why they haven’t heard of many of these accomplished and important figures.
This book by Svetlana Tomić is an extraordinary example of research that introduces unknown personalities, stories, and documented history both in Serbian and in international feminist academic populations. Hence, the term ‘hidden’ in the title is fully justified. But the author also discovers the impressive lives of women—their strength and achievements in difficult times and difficult places. The result is women’s contribution to national culture, some daring avant-garde works, modernity, progressive thinking, and the official silence covering them ever since. The book also points to today’s Serbian cultural problems, based on the same patriarchal patterns and the historical setback in the 1990s and on.
In Serbian cultural reality, one may discover sporadic correspondences of forgotten or tacit sequences linked to women’s contributions to the national history and culture, where every contribution to this effort, especially if it is available to foreign readers, is a feat worth admiration. This book is here to fill in the voids and to emancipate the readers through the life and creative achievements of these selected women to tell an exciting story about the struggle and enlightenment and freedom.
Tomić’s book is a timely intervention in the scholarship on women’s writing and art and is significant not only for Serbian cultural history but also for the entire Balkan region. Tomić makes a powerful case for the importance to recover from oblivion valuable knowledge about the women who played key roles on the Serbian cultural scene since the mid-1800s, when more educational and professional opportunities for women were created. Her clear writing style and compelling argumentation make this book a must-read for anyone interested in the forgotten voices of women in literature and art in Serbia and the wider Balkans.