Jagoda Truhelka

Portrait of J. Truhelka. Photo courtesy of the Croatian State Archives - HDA1443-00955

5.2.1864 – 17.12.1957

If she had it her way, she would have erased all inequalities between genders, between different classes. She doesn’t want there to be men and women – only “people”.

(from the novel Plein Air)

Jagoda Truhelka was born in Osijek in 1864. She left an indelible mark on the history of women in Croatia, primarily in the fields of pedagogy and literature. Her father was a teacher, which later informed her career choices. She spent her childhood in Osijek, but the family moved to Zagreb after her father had died, and she attended the Teachers’ Academy in Zagreb.

Jagoda received her first employment at the Girls’ School in Osijek, and in 1885 was appointed Head of the Girls’ Academy in Gospić, a post she would hold for the next seven years. In 1892, she moved back to Zagreb to hold lectures at the Women’s Lyceum, and in 1901 she became Head of the Girls’ Academy in Banja Luka (BiH). Ten years later, she moved to Sarajevo (BiH), where she taught at the women teachers’ academy until retirement. After that, she returned to Zagreb and settled at Grič 2 in the Upper Town. She lived there with her friend Camilla Lucerna, a translator and German teacher at the Women’s Lyceum.

Truhelka’s stories and novels were published in magazines such as Vijenac and Nada, and she often used the pseudonyms A.M. Sandučić and Ružica Bajkaševa. Although she saw herself primarily as a teacher, she remains best known as the author of the children’s book Golden Days (Zlatni danci). In 1897, she published a psychological serial novel Plein Air, which is considered to be one of the first examples of women’s writing in Croatia.

She was one of the five women who successfully fought for the right to attend lectures at the University of Zagreb at the time when women were still not allowed to attend university.

In 1900, in collaboration with her teacher Marija Jambrišak (whom she called “the champion among Croatian women teachers”), Truhelka started the first women’s journal in Croatia entitled Na domaćem ognjištu. Its goal was to “instil in our women a love of books, intellectual progress, a will to do useful work, and to promote the work of women from throughout the world”.

Another teacher from Osijek, Magdalena Šrepel, who was Truhelka’s pen pal for years, likewise left an imprint on her thinking and worldview. In 1910, Truhelka published In the Realm of the Soul (U carstvu duše), a hybrid-genre novel based on their correspondence, in which she lays out her vision for a civic education for girls. Interestingly, this piece of literature is absent from all textbooks on the history of literature in Croatia, with the exception of a book by Dunja Detoni Dujmić (1998) on the history of women’s writing in Croatia.

Truhelka died in Zagreb at the age of 94 and was buried at Mirogoj Cemetery. She never married or had children.

European Avenue 24, Osijek

There is a bust of Jagoda Truhelka in front of Osijek’s City and University Library. One of the city’s elementary schools – the one she herself attended – was named after Truhelka in 1991, and there is also the Jagoda Truhelka Garden in the city centre. In Zagreb, a small street in the neighbourhood of Stenjevec is also named after her.