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106 DEJANOVIĆ (Dejanovich), Draga (born Dimitrijević) (1840–1871) Serbian feminist, actress, poet; prominent member of the Ujedinjena omladina srpska (United Serbian Youth). Draga Dimitrijević was born on 18 August 1840 in Stara Kanjiža (Habsburg Monarchy, now in Serbia). Her parents were Živojin and Sofija Dimitrijević. As the daughter of a well-to-do lawyer, Draga received an education in her native town and, later, at the Vinčikov Institute in Timisoara (today in Romania). Due to her poor health (she had problems with her eyes), Draga’s education was interrupted. Together with her family, she moved from Stara Kanjiža to Bečej, where she married the young schoolmaster Mihajlo Dejanovi ć against her father’s will. Soon afterwards , she resumed her education in Pest (Hungary), where she met a group of Serbian students (Giga Geršić, Laza Kostić and Jovan Turoma among them) and began writing poems. These were first published in the magazine Danica, and later collected and published as a book under the title Spisi Drage Dejanović (Writings of Draga Dejanović, 1869). In the 1860s, Draga Dejanović joined the recently established Serbian National Theater in Novi Sad. It was a bold break with established rules—a move resisted by her family. One year later, Draga moved to Belgrade where she translated some plays for the National Theater. In 1864, Dejanović returned to Bečej, where she continued to live with her husband. Despite her private obligations she did not abandon public work and the task she had devoted herself to: “prosvećivanje Srpstva” (the enlightenment of Serbdom, an expression she often used in her texts). She wrote three important studies: Nekoliko reči srpskim ženama (A couple of words to Serbian women), Emancipacija Srpkinja (The emancipation of Serbian women) and Srpskoj majci (To the Serbian mother), in which she expressed her dissatisfaction with the inert behavior of Serbian women. Draga Dejanović loved her family (children and husband) dearly and suffered a sense of great personal tragedy when her son died in infancy in 1867. She herself died in 1871, while giving birth to a daughter. 107 Some of Draga Dejanović’s writings remained unpublished. The most important of these include her play “Deoba Jakšića” (The succession of Jaksić), “Svećenik u Morlaku ” (The priest of Morlak) and a pedagogical study, “Mati” (Mom). Perhaps her most well-known works were her feminist writings. She saw the enlightenment of women as necessary for “the awakening of the people’s self-consciousness,” [Hlapec (Chlapec)-Đorđević 1935, 73] and sought to contribute to this “awakening.” The roles of ‘woman’—in family life and as “a teacher of children” [Hlapec (Chlapec)-Đorđević 1935, 68]—were burdened with a great responsibility since it was women who would determine whether or not the family home was “prosperous or ruined. The liberation of women should be taken as the liberation of our people from all the backward habits which still imprison them. Therefore we should not dismiss the woman question as unimportant” (Stojaković 2001, 101). Draga Dejanović was imbued by romantic patriotism, but pointed at formidable problems facing women in society. She considered a poor education to be the greatest obstacle to a woman’s emancipation. In her article “Zla sreća devojačka” (The ill fortune of a girl), she concluded that financial independence and modern education were the basis of women’s independence. Dejanović was a prominent member of the Ujedinjena omladina srpska (United Serbian Youth) which existed from 1866 to 1872. This was a Serbian organization modelled after Mazzini’s United Youth of Italy. Its purpose was to enlighten Serbian people through education and culture. The founders of the Ujedinjena omladina srpska were the first Serbian socialists and liberals: Svetozar Marković, Svetozar Miletić and Vladimir Jovanović. The Ujedinjena omladina srpska was among the first organizations to raise the question of women’s emancipation and had a women’s section that coordinated various related activities. The newspaper Mlada srbadija (Young Serbs) published articles which presented the situation of women in various European countries and the USA, and compared them with the position of women in Serbia. Dejanović called for the Ujedinjena omladina srpska to stand openly behind the demand for equal education for both girls and boys. Her attitude caused negative reactions from some conservative circles. In all her texts, Draga Dejanović also expressed dissatisfaction with what she considered to be the passivity of Serbian women. She publicly criticized the majority of women for believing that the responsibility for...


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