Vinka Bulić

Illustration: Tina Vukasović Đaković / Fierce Women

27.12.1884 – 18.10.1965

Vinka Bulić, probably the first female journalist in Dalmatia and a co-founder of the Women’s Movement (Ženski pokret) in Split, dedicated a large part of her life to the fight for women’s suffrage and other civil rights.

She was born in Solin in 1884 into the famous Šperac family. As an excellent chronicler of her time and a journalist for the Split daily Novo doba, published between two World Wars, she wrote reports, travelogues and feuilletons. She was the first to write about the women’s history of Split in her article “Splitske žene” (“Women of Split”), published in 1927 in the magazine Nova Evropa (Zagreb).

Educated and socially aware, Bulić found it difficult to come to terms with the marginalized role that society intended for women. She got interested in gender equality during the WWI, as evidenced by her correspondence with the Slovenian-Croatian feminist Zofka Kveder, who had recommended feminist writers to her. Therefore, it is not surprising that Bulić would go on to become one of the founders of the Women’s Movement in Split in 1925 and one of its most ardent activists. Together with her colleague Jelka Perić, she participated in the Little Entente of Women in 1927 in Prague – an international peace alliance founded in 1923 by women’s organizations from Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania and Greece – and wrote about it in Novo Doba.

Vinka was also a mountaineer and member of the Croatian Mountaineering Association Mosor. She published reports and travelogues from her trips to Kozjak, Mosor and Biokovo, often warning of the difficult life in the Dalmatian Hinterland. Scenes of poverty, destitution and hunger prompted her to engage in humanitarian activities and fundraising, especially for the poor children living in the area.

Additionally, much of Vinka Bulić’s life was recorded in her diary, which she had kept for four decades (with frequent interruptions), starting from April 1, 1919 – the day of her daughter’s birth. She also had two older sons from her marriage to Mato, but she devoted herself to the diary only at the age of 35 and with the birth of her daughter Jelka, whom she poetically called “an offshoot from an aged vine”. In the diary she mostly wrote about Jelka’s growing up, with occasional comments about the political circumstances in the Adriatic in the first half of the 20th century. One of the final entries is dated February 7, 1945 – the day when Jelka and her husband Franco moved to Italy.

The diary, which had lain forgotten for half a century, was found by Tea Dalmas, Vinka’s granddaughter. Although originally Italian, Tea learned Croatian and translated her grandmother’s writings into Italian. The diary was printed in Italy in two editions, and the final text was edited by Vinka’s great-granddaughter, Manuela Mori. The general public learned about the life and work of Vinka Bulić in 2007, when the women’s organization Domine organized the exhibition “The Women of Split and Dalmatia.”

Following the formal recognition of gender equality in Yugoslavia in 1945 as signified by women’s right to vote, Bulić began to gradually withdraw from public life. Due to political circumstances, as a member of the privileged part of society, she was pushed into degradation and forced to live in tenancy. Historiography at the time did not recognize the progressive role of the Women’s Movement, dismissing it as bourgeois. Vinka died in 1965 in Split, far from public and political life. Her diary is kept in the National and University Library in Zagreb, still awaiting its Croatian edition.

Narodni square (Pjaca), Split

Pjaca was the center of public life of the 20th-century Split and the place from which news and information spread mostly by word of mouth. The offices of Novo doba newspaper, located on the ground floor of the building at Narodni square 3, and from September 1926 at number 9, contributed to this practice. The newspaper used to publish important news in shop windows.