Marija Jambrišak

Fotografija: S. Weinrich, Zagreb 1911. Hrvatski školski muzej - Mf 1379

5.9.1847 – 23.1.1937

Let female teachers stick to the saying: equal work, equal pay, equal right for all, determines the same salary and supplements as male teachers!

Marija Jambrišak was born in 1847 in Karlovac. She was young when her father died, so the mother had to support seven children on her own. When Marija was seven, the family moved to Zagreb, to Demetrova Street. At the age of 16, she finished the Teachers’ School, but was still too young to work independently, she went to work at the Ursuline convent in Varaždin. Two years later, she passed the teacher’s exam, and in 1867 began working in Krapina. Thanks to a scholarship, she was able to continue her education at the Pedagogium in Vienna, the first woman allowed there.

Upon her return to Zagreb, she was employed at the Girls’ Secondary School and became involved in improving the position and education of teachers. In the article “What is our girls’ school like and is the desire for its reform justified?” she criticized the deficient education of girls, especially those from poorer families.

She participated in the first large assembly of Croatian teachers in 1871, held in the old theater building on St. Mark’s Square in Zagreb. In her impassioned speech, she demanded that the salaries of female teachers be equated with those of their male colleagues. She thus went down in history as one of the first representatives of the women’s movement in Croatia.

The year 1892 marked a major shift in the education system for girls, but also in the social position of women in general. Thanks to the long-term efforts of Marija Jambrišak, and with the support of Izidor Kršnjavi, the Minister of Education and Religion in the Khuen-Héderváry administration, in October 1892 the Temporary Women’s Lyceum in Zagreb began to operate – the forerunner of the women’s gymnasium and the first women’s state school in all of Austria-Hungary.

In May 1896, Marija Jambrišak and Jagoda Truhelka published a proclamation seeking the establishment of the Association of Female Teachers of the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia. This was achieved, with the support of the Croatian Pedagogic-Literary Assembly, in 1902 with the foundation of the Female Teachers’ Club, headed by teacher and writer Milka Pogačić.

In 1900, Marija and Jagoda also started and edited the first magazine for women and families, Na domaćem ognjištu (Domestic Hearth), taken over the following year by the aforementioned Milka Pogačić. Marija’s book Famous Women of Story and History was published in 1885, and in it, she wrote about thirty “beautiful role models, which our youth can look up to.” It is interesting that, at the same time, in some of her works (e.g. On Good Behavior) she wrote that a woman’s main task was to be a good mother and servile wife. She herself never married – even after the ban on marriages for teachers was lifted – nor did she have children.
She retired in 1912, but continued to actively follow developments in the field of education, as well as the work of her former students. “She is without a doubt one of the most prominent female personalities in our country, of unusually strong and fighting nature, high intelligence, endless diligence, and great love for her people, especially for young women,” wrote one of her students in Ženski list on the occasion of her 90th birthday. Marija Jambrišak died just days after the publication of this article.

Student Dormitory "Marija Jambrišak," Opatička 14, Zagreb

Together with Margita Khuen-Hedervary, Jambrišak was responsible for the opening of the women's boarding school in 1900 and the accompanying library. Due to high demand, the boarding school soon expanded to the first floor of the building and continued to grow. In 1991, it was named the Student Dormitory "Marija Jambrišak", which today houses around 180 students. On the façade of the building at 8 Jurja Žerjavića Street, where she lived for many years, there is a relief depicting Marija Jambrišak, made in 1939 by sculptor Ksenija Kantoci. She was one of the first women in Croatia to receive a public memorial. On Katarina Zrinska Square in the Upper Town, on the façade of the then VI. Women's Gymnasium, there once stood a memorial plaque dedicated to Marija Jambrišak as the founder of the school and to  the teachers and students victims of the Ustasha regime (Ivana Hirschmann, Olga Milčinović, Rajka Baković and others).