Josipa Glembay

The photo by J. Glembay was provided by the Slagalica Foundation

29.7.1861 – 2.11.1941

Every day of our lives that we don’t spend doing good is a day wasted.

She was born in Čepin, Slavonija, in 1861, but she spent most her life in Osijek, where she worked as a writer and educator and participated in the social and cultural life of the city.

After the death of her father in 1868, Josipa and mother relocated to Osijek, where she completed primary school and two years of secondary school. Another move followed, this time to Zagreb, where she attended the Girls’ Secondary School and the Royal School for Teachers. One of her teachers was Marija Jambrišak.

At the end of the 19th century she passed the necessary exam and was named a teacher at the Girls’ Secondary School in Osijek. Some years later, in 1909, due to her exceptional work she would be named principal. In 1901, she was elected the first female member of the Croatian Educational Literary Society.

She contributed to the development of secondary schools for girls and advanced the education of girls, primarily in the field of Home Economics. She emphasized the importance of educating young women, especially those from poor, largely rural, backgrounds. Precisely in order to help these girls, in 1911 she established the Foundation for Supporting Economically Disadvantaged Pupils of the Girls’ Secondary School (later renamed The Josipa Glembay Jubilee Foundation). She raised funds for the school through donations from the wealthy, as well as from the pupils themselves (“a penny here and there) in order to promote solidarity as a social value.

Josipa Glembay wanted to transform her hometown into the metropolis of Slavonija and Baranja. The social disadvantages faced by women were an issue close to her heart, so she put her efforts into raising the educational and cultural standards for women and encouraging them to get socially active. Since German was the dominant language at the time, Glembay strove to turn Croatian into the language of teaching and the official language of Osijek.

Her influence on the cultural life of the city is truly great. She published articles, travellogues, literary and theatre reviews in such publications as Smilje, Napredak, Školski vjesnik, Hrvatski list, Omladina, and Domaće ognjište. She also published a number of papers on educational reform and the history of public education, as well as a collection of aphorisms titled Iskre pod pepelom (Sparks Under Ashes). Some also credit her with establishing the reading room in Osijek.

After retiring in 1922, she continued her literary work and remained dedicated to causes related to education, as well as various cultural and social issues. She founded the Association of Teachers, the Croatian Women’s Club, and the local branch of the association called the Croatian Woman whose goal was to promote national consciousness and charity work. They also organized different activities for women, including guest lectures by Jagoda Truhelka and Marija Jurić Zagorka.

Having learned that Zagorka was starting a new magazine for women called Hrvatica (1938), Josipa took upon herself the coordination of the local women, noting that subscribing was “the patriotic duty of all the members of the association.” On the 15th anniversary of the branch’s foundation, it was noted in an article published in Ženski list that Josipa continues to “work like a bee, designed by nature to labour, gather, bring people together, and work some more.“ 

The Croatian Woman ended rather disgracefully. After the founding of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), the members sent a telegram to Ante Pavelić, congratulating him on his success. The association officially shut down in 1943, when all women’s organizations were asked to merge with the women’s section of the local Ustasha Movement. 

Josipa Glembay died in 1941, and was buried in the cemetery in Osijek’s Upper Town.

The former building of the Girls' Secondary School, Holy Trinity Square/Bosendorf Street, Osijek

The building in the centre of Osijek, which nowadays houses the School of Economics and Administration, was erected in the late 18th century for the needs of the Gymnasium. When the new Great Royal Gymnasium building, designed by Hermann Bollé, was completed in 1883, the recently founded Girl's Secondary School moved into the old building. Josipa Glembay worked there, first as a teacher, and later as the principal.