Publication Date

Spring 2019

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Marko Dumančić (Director), Dr. Dorothea Browder, and Dr. Marla Zubel

Degree Program

Department of History

Degree Type

Master of Arts


While women are often excluded and/or portrayed as victims in the historical scholarship on war, this research builds on recent scholarship that shows women as active agents in warfare. I focus on Yugoslavia’s WWII Partizankas, female soldiers and activists, who held visible positions in the war effort, public consciousness and, later memory. Using gender as a category of analysis, my thesis explores Partizankas’ legacy and their contributions in the National Liberation Movement (NLM) in WWII (1941- 1945) and post-war nation building. I argue that the organizational framework of the Anti-Fascist Women’s Front (AWF) under the guidance of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) emphasized women’s ethnic/religious identities along with distinct social standings and geographic locations to motivate them to fight for the common cause and subsequently forge a shared South Slavic identity. This emphasis on ethnic/regional/class differences paradoxically led to the creation of a common Yugoslav national identity. Women’s involvement, therefore, becomes central to the nationbuilding in the post-war period while establishing the legacy for future feminists. I characterize NLM as a Marxist guerrilla movement with the intent to contextualize the organizational tactics and ideological efforts of CPY and showcase the commonalities and differences the Yugoslav resistance movement had vis-à-vis other revolutionary movements that actively recruited women. Furthermore, the thesis focuses on the representations of Partizankas in popular culture and official rhetoric from WWII to the demise of Yugoslavia in 1991 in order explore the fluidity of gender roles and their perceptions. This research is meaningful because NLM, as an organized Marxist guerrilla movement, stands out in its size, success and legacy. The Yugoslav experience broadens the understanding of why women go to war, how gender norms shift during and after the conflict, and how female soldiers are remembered.


Ethnic Studies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | Women's History