Marija Jurić Zagorka was a Croatian journalist, novelist and dramatist, the first female journalist and most popular Croatian writers of all time.
She was born in little village near Zagreb, to a well-standing family, which allowed her a good education, but in spite of her talent and many gifts, her parents decided to end her education early and, soon after leaving school, married her off to a man whom she barely knew, a Hungarian railway clerk 18 years her senior. The marriage ended abruptly with her escape from the house, due to her husband’s and mother-in-law’s abuse.
It was in Zagreb that she began her career as a journalistwhich was a highly unusual career for a woman in those days, and because of that, she was frowned upon, humiliated and prejudiced against her entire life. She was forced to write anonymously, under pseudonyms that hid her gender, and hide herself at work so nobody would notice there was a woman writing. All fighting for the rights of women, caused her considerable problems in life, both professionally and privately.
Urged by Bishop Strossmayer, Zagorka began writing historic novels, usually set in 16th, 17th and 18th century Croatia. She instantly became popular amongst the people, but the critics and her colleagues, however, constantly put her down. Today we appreciate her and I don’t know a person who didn’t read her books or novels. My cousin has a name after a one of her characters Siniša. He was a handsome solder and owner of a estate in her best novel „Grička vještica“ (Grič witch).
Upon the formation of Independent State of Croatia, the magazine “Hrvatica” was forcibly cancelled and her entire estate is taken from her, leaving her without means to support herself. Desperate, Zagorka attempted suicide, but luckily survived. Living in Zagreb, she saw the end of WWII thanks to the financial help and care of her loyal public. Despite her age and weak health, she continued fighting for the rights of women, even though it earned her the ridicule and animosity of her male colleagues, who repeatedly called her “a madwoman” and “mannish old hag”, until the day of her death.
None of her novels have been translated into English, which to my opinion is such a shame and the world is lacking of her stories. She wrote around 35 novels and book, and some of which are lost forever. She was a hero with a pen in her hand and pain in her heart.