restricted access MILČINOVIĆ, Adela (1878–1968)
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340 MILČINOVIĆ, Adela (1878–1968) Croatian feminist activist, novelist, critic and journalist. Adela Milčinović (born Kamenić) was born on 14 January 1878 in the city of Sisak, the largest of the Croatian river ports, located along the rivers Sava and Kupa. Adela was the illegitimate daughter of Ludmila Kamenić (data unknown). After graduating from the girls’ high school in Sisak (ca. 1892), she qualified as a teacher in Zagreb at the Sisters of Charity Convent in 1896 (this being the only way for a woman to receive teacher training until the passing of a new education law in 1888. In 1899, she married Andrija Milčinović (born 1877), a teacher and philosophy student at the University of Zagreb whom she had known since her high school days. She assumed his family name and the young couple moved to Slavonia , to the village of Zdenci near Slavonski Brod, where Andrija Milčinović accepted a teaching post. In 1900, Adela Milčinović published a letter in Domaće ognjište (Domestic fireside ), a magazine which had just been launched by the Klub hrvatskih učiteljica (Croatian Women Teachers’ Club) under the umbrella of the Hrvatsko pedagoško društvo (Croatian Pedagogical Association). In the letter, Milčinović presented a wellformulated feminist critique, denouncing the absence of women from public life and outlining her vision of a new aesthetics. In the years 1902 to 1904, she and her husband moved to Hamburg and then to Munich. In this period they published a collection of stories together, Pod branom (Under the barrage, 1903) while Andrija Milčinovi ć kept up his studies as a theater scholar and Adela attended courses in art history , also writing for the Zagreb newspaper Narodne novine (The nation). Upon returning to Zagreb (where the couple settled from 1904 to 1915), Andrija Milčinović completed his studies and began working for the Muzej za umjetnost i obrt (Museum of Arts and Crafts). Adela Milčinović, still writing for Narodne novine, published a pedagogical study, Naše ženske škole i kako nam koriste (Our girls’ schools and how they benefit us, 1904), in which she criticized clericalism and demanded the secularization and modernization of girls’ education. In Ivka, a collection of short stories and Milčinović’s literary debut (1905), she depicted a new generation of 341 emancipated women determined to transcend the perimeters of domesticity, organized around the coordinates of ‘church,’ ‘children’ and ‘kitchen.’ In doing so, she attempted to regenerate women’s literary expression in the early twentieth century. In Naše hrvatske spisateljice (Our Croatian female writers, 1905), she evaluated the work of her contemporaries, later turning to that of literary predecessors such as Dragojla Jarnević: see, for example, her Dragojla Jarnevićeva, živopisna studija (Dragojla Jarnević, a biographical study, 1907). Milčinović’s short stories explored femininity, the ‘female professions,’ socially prescribed gender roles, the ‘female soul,’ the relationship to one’s own (gendered) body and the ambivalence of eroticism and motherhood . In the play Bez sreće (Without luck, 1912), two female protagonists become tragic rivals in a love triangle. This ‘naturalistic drama’ about life in Slavonia was well received, though critics emphasized its tragic elements from the perspective of the male protagonist. They applauded its treatment of the social problem of landlessness without noting the gender issues it raised. Bez sreće won awards in 1912 and was performed in Varaždin, Belgrade, Skopje, Prague and Chicago (in a run that lasted until the 1930s). Adela and Andrija Milčinović often traveled around the Balkans and occasionally made trips to Vienna and Paris. They had two daughters, Vera and Deša (data unknown ) and eventually divorced around 1915 (precise date unknown). It was around this time that Adela Milčinović started to become politically active. In February 1915, as part of initiatives to unite the southern Slavs, Milčinović held secret meetings in Rome with Ivan Meštrović and Ante Trumbić, émigré politicians at the head of the Hrvatski odbor (Croatian Committee; later the Yugoslav Committee). She spent the war years (1915–1918) in Belgrade, working in the editorial offices of the Beogradske novine (Belgrade news). Upon returning to Zagreb in 1918, she began working as a secretarial assistant in the financial department of the Narodno vijeće Države Slovenaca, Hrvata i Srba (National Council of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs), where she remained until 1920. In 1919, she published the short stories Sjena (Shadow), Gospođa doktorica (Mrs Doctor) and...


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