Eustahija Arsić (1776-1843) was the first Serbian female writer to have her books printed. She was also the first woman to work with the Matica srpska foundation and eventually become its first female member. She was a proponent of the Age of Enlightenment, and particularly vocal on the topic of women’s right to education. She promoted the endowment of Serbian and Romanian educational and religious institutions, as well as the Matica srpska foundation itself. Her writings are included in The Anthology of Olden Serbian Poetry by M. Leskovac.
Judita Horovic (1787-1857) was the first local female independent merchant in the food industry. Hers is the only female name to be found in the records of governing heads of Jewish families in Novi Sad in 1844. She was the first woman to officially submit a proposal for the opening of a women-centered organization in Novi Sad in 1848.
Marija Trandafil (1816-1883) is considered the greatest philanthropist in Serbian history. Her most famous bequest is the “Orphanage of Marija Trandafil for Serbian Orthodox-Christian Children”. The building is now the home of the Matica srpska foundation and the Library of Matica srpska. In addition to helping the needy, she supported the renovation and renewal of many churches in Novi Sad. She established the self-titled foundation for the financial support of Novi Sad’s high school students.
Milica Stojadinović Srpkinja (1828-1878), nicknamed “the fairy of Vrdnik“, was a poet, author, and translator. She was also the first female war correspondent in the region. Her 1862 piece about the bombing of Belgrade entitled “The Heart and the Barricades” was published in the Hungarian Daily Paper the same year. She worked as an associate of Vuk Karadžić, collecting folk proverbs. She published three collections of poetry and two volumes of her diary called In Fruška gora.
Savka Subotić (1834-1918) was a researcher in the field of traditions concerning the social lives of women. She fought for women’s rights to education, and financial independence and self-sustainability. After her talk “Woman on the East and the West” at the Science Club in Vienna in 1911, she became the most famous woman of the region. She was the first chairwoman of The Serbian National Women’s Council, The Circle of Serbian Sisters and The Collective of Serbian Women from Novi Sad.
Draga Dejanović (1840-1871) was the first woman in the Balkan region to offer a clearly formulated feminist theory, influenced by national ideas on the topic. She presented her theories in public lectures (“A Couple of Words about Serbian Women”, “To Serbian Mothers”) and in an essay “The Emancipation of Serbian Women” published in 1870. For her, feminism wasn’t just a theory, but a way of life. She promoted a new vision of a financially independent and modern-thinking woman.
Draga Gavrilović (1854-1917) was the first female novelist in Serbian literature. Her first published work was called “A Young Woman’s Novel”. She is considered the establisher of the category of “women’s fiction” in Serbia, as well as credited as being one of the first Serbian feminists. Alongside novels, she wrote poetry, short stories, humor columns, and opinion pieces. Her work was published in the most significant journals of her time, such as Javor, Orao, Sadašnjost, Neven, and Starmali.
Milica (1854-1881) and Anka (1855-1923) Ninković were the first Serbian feminists with an education in politics, and thus the first feminists joining the political fight. They developed their feminist views within the framework of the socialist movement. They were associates and writers for all socialist papers, as well as translators. Milica is known for translating “Serbia in the East” by Svetozar Marković (from Serbian to Russian).
Adel Nemešanji (1857-1933) was the first woman to hold the position of principal of the Novi Sad Trade School with a teaching program in Hungarian. In 1891 she founded and became chairmen of the “Maria Dorottya” collective that worked on the betterment of the education women receive as well as the organizing of female teachers.
Milica Tomić (1859-1944) writer, journalist and politician, is one of the most important Serbian feminists. From 1911 to 1914, and then again from 1918 to 1921, she was the editor and publisher of the journal called “Woman”. The journal openly discussed political rights of women, advocating an increase in women’s involvement. She was one of the seven women from Vojvodina who were chosen as representatives in the Great Assembly in 1918, after which women quickly gained the legal right to vote.
Jelena Kon (1883-1942) was a humanitarian who founded the charity “Crust of Bread” in 1925, as well as a Kindergarten. The organizations were open to the general public, regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation. Thanks to her advocacy, Queen Marija Karađorđević oversaw the building of a new institution, the “Crust of Bread Home”, which still houses a kindergarten today. Jelena Kon was murdered in 1942, during the Novi Sad Raid.
Anica Savić Rebac (1892-1953) is one of the most learned women of the mid-20th century Serbia. She left a remarkable legacy of poetry, essays and translated works. She was a member of a group of Belgrade female intellectuals who founded the Yugoslav Organization of University Educated Women in 1927. She was one of the first women to be accepted into the Yugoslav PEN Club.
Ida Sabo(1915 -2016) was a communist, anti-fascist, a partisan, member of the Yugoslav People’s Liberation Fight, the president of the Women’s Antifascist Front, and a women’s liberation fighter. She has numerous accolades and awards to her name. After World War II, she remained an active politician.