Bosanska 4, 21 000 Split, Croatia
tel. +385 21 537 272
tel. +385 21 344 688
fax. +385 21 531 722
Zagrebačka banka: 2360000-1101679303

History of women of Split and Dalmatia


1. Ana Roje (1909-1991)

Ana Roje, world renowned dancer, teacher and choreographer, is one of the greatest Croatian artists of all time. Born in Split in 1909, she perfected her art in through her studies in London. Having accomplished a career abroad, she returns to Croatia with her husband Oskar Harmoš. With him, she leads the ballet in Split and afterwards in Zagreb from 1941 to 1953, non-consecutively. In 1942, she participates in the documentary film, "The Baroque in Croatia," directed by Oktavijan Miletić. She was prima ballerina in Zagreb and Belgrade. With the ballet troupe Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo with her husband, she performed throughout Europe, Asia, Australia ... In 1953, she founded the International Ballet School in Kaštel Kambelovac. Subsequently, she went to America, where she teaches professional courses on Lagata pedagogy, and where there are still ballet schools named after her. In her old age, she returned to Split and Dalmatia. She received many awards, among others, with her husband, the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement award in 1978. Ana Roje died in Šibenik, at the age of 82.

2. Cata Dujšin Ribar (1897 - 1994)

Cata Dujšin Ribar, a painter and poet, was present in Croatian culture and public life for almost a century. She was born in Trogir to the Gattin family. She spent her childhood in Kotor, where he graduated from the three-year program at Trade Academy. Subsequently, she moved to Zagreb, where she continued her art education. She studied with Emanuel Vidović (Split, 1915); Vladimir Becića, at the Academy of Fine Arts (Zagreb, 1924-1925), and the Royal College of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb (1917-1921). She also spent time in Paris and London, perfecting her art. She worked as a restorer at the Art Gallery in Split. She painted Dalmatian landscapes and portraits with lyrical and dramatic character. Her work was exhibited in London, Venice, New York, Washington, Prague, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Glasgow, Zagreb, etc. As a writer, she published collections of poems, “Rastanci bez rastanka“ [Farewells Without Farewells], 1971, “Iz kamene jeke” [From the Stone Echoes], 1975, and "Lirika" [Lyrics], 1983. She donated her apartment in Demetrova 3 to the city of Zagreb. She donated her works in 1978 to her native town, Trogir, out of which the Cate Dujšin Ribar Gallery was formed within the Museum of Trogir.


3. Anka Berus (1903 - 1981)

Anka Berus, the first female minister in the Croatian Government after the Second World War. She filled the function of the Minister of Finance from 1945 to 1953. During the 60ies, she was a member of the federal government of the state. She was born in Split to the family Žnidaršić, where she completed her secondary education. She attended university in Ljubljana from where she returned in 1926. She taught in a Split high school. She is known for her fight for workers' rights, and many high school students from Split remember her as the professor whose classes did not begin with prayer. Due to her illegal work and membership in the former Communist Party, she was jailed twice (in Požarevac and Lepoglava). Within the labor movement, she worked to assemble the women of Split and demanded women's suffrage and other civil rights. She fought in the partisan movement since 1942; consequently she was voted one of Croatia’s 18 national heroines. She died in Zagreb, the city that declared her an honorary citizen in 1980.



4. Dika Marjanović Radica (1892 - 1984)

Dika Marjanović Radica, the woman who preserved the culinary traditions and folk heritage of Dalmatian cuisine, is one of our most popular cooks. She was born in Veli Varoš in Split. She was educated for a household teacher, and for many years she taught young girls in Split, Sinj and other places in Dalmatia. She held cooking classes for everyone, young and old alike throughout Dalmatia—on the islands, in coastal villages, and in the mountains. In the meanwhile, she consistently collected recipes, eager to preserve the rich gourmet heritage and to unselfishly transmit this knowledge to others. She published the collected recipes in two books, "The Dalmatian Cookbook" (1939) and "The Practical Cookbook" (1944). She personally tested each recipe in “The Dalmatian Cookbook”, and it was precisely this cookbook that became essential reading material for many cooks and chefs, a mandatory part of a mother’s wedding gift for generations of Dalmatian brides; many mothers and grandmothers have learned to cook from this cookbook. Since its first edition in 1939, the book has seen about a dozen editions in six decades. We are grateful to Ms. Dika Hrnjak Radica for her support and assistance in researching the life and work her aunt, Dika Marjanović Radica.

5. Aida Koludrović (1886 - 1976)

Aida Koludrović, scientist, ethnologist and translator. She was the first female director of the Ethnographic Museum in Split (1946 -1959). For years, she copied embroidery patterns found on the Dalmatian female headscarves, which were used to create adornments for modern shirts and dresses. She also read expert literature, ancient texts, and since 1936, she wrote popular expert works about ethnographic material. Aida Koludrović was a self-taught scientist. She adopted ethnographic and ethnological knowledge and skills out of enthusiasm and love. She was fluent in five world languages - Russian, French, English, German and Italian; she also translated from the French language. She was very systematic and meticulous, researching and studying in detail. After 17 years, she restored the Museum’s prewar publishing service, and released two books: “Ženske varoške nošnje u sjevernoj i srednjoj Dalmaciji” [Women’s town attire in northern and central Dalmatia] in 1954, and “Vrlika” in 1956. She was a real ethnologist with scientific interest. We are grateful to the Ethnographic Museum in Split on the ceded publications and documentation on the life and work of Aida Koludrović.

6. Bira (15th-16th century)

Bira, sister to Marko Marulić, is mentioned as one of the first educated nuns. Her real name was Elvira plemenita [noble] Pečenić-Marulić. She despised marriage and lived in a Benedictine monastery “within the walls” of St. Arnir near the northern walls of Diocletian's palace. Her brother, Marko Marulić, dedicated many of his writings to her and her fellow nuns. He wrote them by hand for the fun of the nuns in the Croatian language—because the nuns understood only the local language. Some of them are humorous-satirical poems, such as "Anka satire" and “Spovid koludric od sedam smrtnih grihov“. In his last testament, Marko left Bira the silver watch he had received from the Croatian ban [governor] and bishop Petar Berislavić, and the Gospel, which he painted himself. 1514 is considered the likely year of her death. We are grateful to the Split City Museum for the ceded publications and documents about the life and work of Bira, Elvira Pečenić-Marulić.

7. Tina Morpurgo (1907-1943)

Tina Morpurgo was a young artist from a well-known Jewish family in Split. She studied painting privately in Split, Italy and Germany. She painted landscapes from the Split area and still life. Her painting style was Realist. In her work, she managed to convey certain lyrical moods, and demonstrated an unusual talent that is evident in her few surviving paintings. Among her surviving works, her self-portrait is particularly notable. Her first exhibition took place at the then newly opened open-air lounge in Geremia palace in 1931. She also held a few sales exhibitions. Her young life ended at the age of 36 in Jajinci camp, as a victim of the Holocaust. We are grateful to the Jewish community in Split and Nenad Morpurgo for his support and assistance in gathering information about the life and work of Tina Morpurgo.

8. Marija Monterisi (1900-1983)

Marija Monterisi, one of Split’s first female entrepreneurs, owner of two perfumeries before World War II. She was born in Split to the Popović family. She graduated from Trade School. In 1920, she married Antonio Monterisi, a radio operator, and had two children. Soon after, she opened a perfumery-haberdashery, "Venus", in Šubić street. After several successful years, she opened another store in Bosanska street, "Perfumery Monterisi”. Many contemporary denizens of Split held the memory of Marija as the elegant figure, always smartly dressed, standing in the doorway of her perfumeries, watching passersby. In 1940, her husband died. During World War II, she helped the liberation movement. In 1946, her perfumeries were confiscated, so she moved to Trieste and was employed by D. Kozulich, a wholesaler, who she subsequently married. After being widowed again, she opened a goldsmith shop in Trieste. Her entrepreneurial spirit and perseverance never left her. She died in Padua, where she moved after retirement. We are grateful to Joseph Monterisi for his assistance and support in the research and collection of data on the life of his grandmother, Marija Monterisi.



9. Asja Kisić (1914 -1996)

Asja Kisić, a theater and film actress from Split, who through her roles and performances made Split and its denizens famous. Although born in Zadar, the majority of her acting career took place at the Croatian National Theatre in Split. Some older denizens of Split still remember her for her theatrical performances such as Palma in Marko Uvodić’s “Libar”. She has appeared in films such as "Palma među palmama" (1967), " Gravitacija ili fantastična mladost činovnika Borisa Horvata” (1968), and “Servantes iz Malog Mista "(1982). She is most remembered, however, for her legendary role in "Malo misto" (1970), as Bepina, a woman who, in spite of the traditions of the time, simply cohabited with a man, determined to fight for the kind of love she desired and believed in. "Luiđi, when are you going to take me down the aisle?" is only one of Bepina’s classic lines, and the love story of Bepina and Dr. Luiđi has long outgrown the context of “Naše malo misto." Asja Kisić died in Split at the age of 82.



10. Vinka Šperac (1843 - 1923)

Vinka Šperac, writer, journalist, translator and feminist, born in Solin. She left home at a young age through her marriage to count Vatto from Piran, and she continued her life in Italy. After the death of her first husband, she married engineer Vespasiano Bignani. In Italian literature, she is known as the writer Beatrice Speraz, who published her many literary and other works under the male pseudonym Bruno Sperani. Vinka Šperac was, for her time, a very independent woman, who ardently demanded women's suffrage, education, and equal pay. Particularly notable is her article in which seeks equal rights and respect for Italian female painters (Le Pittrici [Female Painters], Milan, 1907). Along with her translation and journalistic career, her literary oeuvre is extremely rich. She wrote numerous short stories and novels (more than 20 published titles). It is not known whether there is a translation of her works in the Croatian language. She died in Milan at age 80.


11. Prisca and Valerija (4th century - 314/315)

Prisca and Valerija were the wife and daughter of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. They were executed during the power struggle by one of Diocletian's successors, Licinius. Few recorded information about their lives remains. According to some, they fell victim to the persecution of Christians, while others claim they were just victims of political turmoil, killed in order to harm Diocletian himself. According to the records of orator Lactantius (About the death of the persecutor, De mortibus persecutorum XLVIII), Prisca was on her way to Thessaloniki to be of help to her daughter Valeria, whose husband, Diocletian’s co-emperor, Galerius, was on his deathbed. However, they were both hunted down and killed. Shortly after the death of Prisca and Valeria, Diocletian died in his palace in Split, crushed with grief. Valerija, who held the title of Augusta, was one of the greatest women of late antiquity, and both were women of extraordinary moral values and strong character (Nenad Cambi, “Žene na raskrižju ideologije” [Women at the crossroads of ideologies], Split, 2007). If we accept the fact that Emperor Diocletian was Split’s first denizen, then there is no doubt that Prisca and Valeria were Split’s first female denizens.

12. Vinka Bulić (1884 -1965)

Vinka Bulić, journalist, editor, feminist, one of the founders of the feminist Women's movement in Split. She was born in Solin to the renowned family Šperac. She was an excellent chronologian of her time and journalist for Split’s daily newspaper, “Novo doba” [New Age], issued between the two world wars. She was a housewife by occupation, but her work and wide range of interests and social activities by far exceeded the interests of a housewife. In February, 1926, she co-founds the feminist Women's movement in Split. With Dr. Jelka Perić, she participated in the work of the International Feminist Alliance in Prague in 1927. In addition to her contributions for “Novo doba”, she wrote for the “Croatian Daily”, "Croatia's Fashion Show" and other journals. Especially important is her article, "Split Women", published in 1927 in the journal "Nova Evropa” [New Europe] in Zagreb, where she writes about the female history of Split. She was an alpinist, and she did humanitarian work, particularly collecting help for the poor children of Split’s mountain region. Vinka Bulić died in Split in 1965. We thank Larissa Bulić Šerbo for her help and the ceding of materials and documents about the life and work of her great grandmother Vinka Bulić.

13. Zdravka Krstulović (1940 – 2003)

Zdravka Krstulović is a famous Split film, television and stage actress. Viewers remember her most for the role of Anđa Vlajna in “Naše malo misto" and Violeta in "Velo misto", the famous TV series, with a screenplay by Miljenko Smoje. She was born in Split, near Split’s Croatian National Theatre (CNT). Already in her early years, she did ballet, opera and acting. Split’s CNT became her headquarters after she graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1965. She made nine films between 1965 and 1993. A Croatian film magazine ranked her among the 20 best Croatian movie actresses in 2005. Split’s theater audience remembers her by her exceptional theater performances. In Split’s CNT, she performs between 1965 and 1971, and again between 1978 and 1999, when after her last role in the production “Buzdo”, she is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She died four years later in Varaždin, in a Home for the elderly and disabled, already somewhat forgotten. For her artistic achievements she was awarded numerous awards, including the "Emanuel Vidović" award in the field of art and acting.

14. Majda Radić Dešpalj (1933 -1984)

Majda Radić Dešpalj, a mezzo-soprano, leader of the opera, one of the most talented opera singers in the period after World War II. She was born in Šibenik, where she studied singing with music teacher Bruno Belamarić. She continues her singing studies in Zagreb in 1952 with Professor Miroslav Lunzer, and at the Academy of Music with Lav Vrbanić. Even as a student, she began performing at the Zagreb Opera; she became a member in 1959. Her voice had a mezzo-soprano color, with a great range, great height and the coloratura soprano technique. She performed in numerous operas and concerts; the most remembered are the role of Cherubino in “The Marriage of Figaro”, at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival in 1967, Ebola in “Don Carlos”, Marina in “Boris Godunov”, Carmen, Azusena in “The Troubadour” and many others. With the Zagreb Opera, she performed in Japan, Berlin, Russia, Paris, and I the 1970s, she continued her opera and concert career in the U.S. After returning from the United States in 1978, she continued her career in her home theater house in Zagreb. For her interpretation of Delilah, in the opera “Samson and Delilah” in 1967, she was awarded the "Milko Trnin” award. After her death, it was written that too early, at the age of 51, died “a leader of the opera who captivated equally with the beauty of her voice, her dramatic expressiveness and her sparkling temperament" (BBC News, 11/15/1984). We are grateful to Sonja Bjelančić for assisting and ceding materials and documents about the life and work of her sister Majda Radić Dešpalj.

Women's movement in Split between the two world wars

The first important women's organization, the Women's National Cooperative was founded in Split in 1918. Its president was Maja Čulić. After her resignation in July 1920, Ecija Duboković was elected for president. Within the cooperative, number of sections operated, such as Educational, Humanitarian with Counseling, and Fun. In February 1926 in Split, the Women's Movement was founded, which acted on the territory of the entire country and had its headquarters in Beogradu. Two of Split’s feminists of the time, Dr. Jelka Perić and Vinka Bulić, a journalist for “Novo doba”, participated in an international feminist conference in Prague in 1927 and informed the readers of “Novo doba” about it. “Novo doba” also wrote about the international feminist conference in Dubrovnik in 1936. Besides the National Women's Cooperative and the Women’s Movement, other women's organizations also operated in Split such as Women's Croatian Catholic Society Danica, Croatian Women, and Croatian Heart. In October 1927, a public meeting was held where women demanded the right to vote, and in 1935, at the cinema “Sirius”, women demanded their workers' rights and the right to vote. After World War II, the feminist movement disappears and drowns within the socialist leveling. Almost 70 years passed since the women's movement and feminism have once again become part of the Split’s daily life.


print pdf mail