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Gender, revolution, and war: The mobilization of women in the Yugoslav Partisan resistance during World War II

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Jelena Batinic
Abstract:
The mass participation of women in the communist-led Yugoslav Partisan resistance is one of the most remarkable phenomena of World War II. Drawing on an array of diverse sources--including archival records of the Communist Party, Partisan military, and the Antifascist Front of Women, wartime press and propaganda, participant reminiscences and diaries, and Partisan folklore--this study explores the history and postwar memory of the phenomenon. It is, more broadly, concerned with changes in gender norms and values caused by the war, revolution, and the establishment of the communist regime, which claimed to have solved the "woman question" and instituted equality between the sexes. The reformulation of gender ideals and norms during the war happened primarily on three levels: on the level of political rhetoric, the level of institutions, and the level of daily practice. This study begins by analyzing the rhetoric that Partisan leaders devised to recruit women and justify their active participation in the movement. It shows how their rhetorical strategy rested upon a skillful combination of traditional Balkan culture with a revolutionary idiom. In its appeals to women, the Party consistently stressed its dedication to women's rights and gender equality. Parallel to such statements it also drew on patriarchal folk traditions. For modern purposes of mass mobilization, Party leaders consciously invoked the heroic imagery of freedom fighters from South Slavic folklore, which appealed to the patriotic sentiments of the population. References to the epic lore allowed the Party to establish lineage to the time-honored heritage and assert its authority among the peasantry. The images of epic heroines served to attract women and legitimize the partizanka (female Partisan) in the eyes of the populace. Second, this work examines the institutional basis--in the form of the Antifascist Front of Women (AFZ)--that the leadership developed for women's mobilization. Focusing on the AFZ's wartime history, it shows how in the Partisans' institutional practice, much like in their rhetoric, the revolutionary coexisted with the traditional. Females recruited by the AFZ contributed to the Partisan war effort primarily through an extension of their traditional tasks within the family and village communities: feeding, cleaning, nursing, and caring for others. The Party's mobilizing genius, this study contends, lay precisely in this rhetorical and institutional adaptation of peasant traditions in a distinctly modem way. Through modern organizational devices, the communists put peasant women's age-old labor skills to use in a systematic fashion, transforming local customs of village women supporting their warrior men into instruments of mass participation in modem warfare. But this strategy also had a flipside, as it helped institutionalize old notions of gender difference and the inequality associated with them. Third, I focus on realities on the ground: on daily practice and, in particular, the problems of women's integration into the movement. Without much guidance from Moscow and with no precedents in local history, the leaders in the units had to decide on the spot about such questions as what kind of relations between the sexes would be acceptable; whether Partisans would be allowed to marry and spouses to serve together in the same unit; who would do the laundry, cooking, and other chores, etc. This study exposes a gap between egalitarian declarations on the top and realities on the ground. It sheds light on the power of old patterns and the prevalence of a belief in "natural" and fixed gender characteristics and duties in the movement. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the legacy of women's wartime mobilization. I look at the ways that the partizanka was memorialized in Yugoslavia's culture, tracing her journey from the revolutionary icon par excellence in the early postwar years to the oblivion of the present. I explore both the officially sanctioned memory of the female Partisan--as promoted by state-sponsored commemorations, historiography, and memorials--and the emergence of alternative, competing images in cinematography and literature. The crumbling of the partizanka's icon, through growing sexualization and marginalization, mirrored the gradual erosion of Yugoslav communism and, with it, of the Yugoslav nation itself. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract iv Acknowledgments viii Introduction 1 1 "To the People, She Was a Character from Folk Poetry": The Party's Mobilizing Rhetoric 30 2 The "Organized Women:" Developing the Antifascist Front of Women 95 3 The Heroic and the Mundane: Women in the Units 160 4 The Personal as a Site of Party Intervention: Privacy and Sexuality 219 5 After the War Was Over: The Partizanka as Memory 281 Conclusion 344 Selected Bibliography 355 x

INTRODUCTION It was a strange yet most impressive sight when girls of eighteen and twenty went into battle with men... Some of them had rifles slung across their shoulders, a few bore stretchers, and others carried first aid kit[s]. They were scattered throughout the ranks among the men, beautiful, healthy, strong girls, both dark and fair.. .the reality seemed fantastic. (Major William Jones, the first British officer to parachute to Tito's Partisans)1 ... [Partisan] women showed extraordinary bravery in these struggles and they freely charged at our machine guns. Before the battle began, the women had been dressed in black, but after the first shots they threw away their black overcoats and all of a sudden they were in white overcoats. It has been noticed that many were pregnant among the killed women and girls, although, according to the seized acts of Communist archive, it was strictly forbidden that women get pregnant in order to have as many of them as possible participating in combat. (Report to the Serbian Ministry of Interior, 17 November 1943)2 Who could've known last year, comrades, Oj drugovi, ko bi znao lani That girls would become Partisans. Da ce cure biti Partizani. (wartime folk song) When, in 1943, Major William Jones saw Yugoslav Partisan women in action, the sight struck him as strange, impressive, and fantastic. Such sights were no less fantastic in the eyes of local adversaries of Tito's Partisans, who often struggled to rationalize the unexpected presence of women warriors among the enemy ranks, as the report quoted above suggests. The unlikely scene of wardrobe change at the beginning of the battle, after which the women, "many of them pregnant," charged at machine 1 Major William Jones, Twelve Months with Tito's Partisans (Bedford: Bedford books, 1946), 78. 2 Report on the struggle between Partisans and the Serbian gendarmerie under the collaborationist puppet government of Milan Nedic, October 18, 1943. Document reprinted in Bosa Cvetic et al., eds., Zene Srbije u NOB (Beograd: Nolit, 1975), 686. 1

guns, seems like a bizarre, even magical, ritual. Nor were male Partisans themselves always sure how to understand the appearance of female combatants in their units. Who, indeed, could have known that women would become fighters? The mass participation of women in the communist-led Yugoslav Partisan resistance is one of the most remarkable phenomena of the Second World War. According to official figures, by the end of the war more than two million women had been involved in the Partisan movement. Over 100,000 served as combatants in the Partisan army—a degree of female military involvement unprecedented and unrepeated in the region, and practically unrivaled elsewhere.3 Why and how did the Partisans recruit women? What made these women—the vast majority of them peasants from underdeveloped regions with strong patriarchal traditions—decide to take up arms? More intriguing still: what made their transformation into warriors acceptable to the peasant-filled Partisan ranks? How were they integrated into the movement and how were their relations with men regulated? What images emerged to represent their experience and role? Last but not least, what was the legacy of women's mass military and political mobilization in the region? To try to answer these questions, this study explores the history and postwar memory of the phenomenon. It is, more broadly, concerned with changes in gender norms and values caused by the war, revolution, and the establishment of the communist regime, which claimed to have solved the "woman question" and instituted equality between the sexes. 3By "unparalleled" I do not mean to belittle the achievements of non-Yugoslav women in World War II, but rather to point to the extraordinary characteristics of the Yugoslav Partisan resistance. Large numbers of women took part in other European resistance movements and in the Soviet army, and their contribution has been well documented. However, when taken in proportion to the total population, these cases do not parallel the Yugoslav one. 2

The Yugoslav Partisans, led by Marshal Tito, were probably the most successful antifascist resistance movement in Europe. Championing a supra-ethnic patriotism in a region long troubled by interethnic strife, they were able to win authentic popular support, seize power, and liberate a significant portion of the country on their own. Their values were to dominate Yugoslavia's official culture for decades afterwards. Consequently, their wartime exploits have attracted some scholarly attention in the West. Yet gender has been paid scant attention in the existing literature, which tends to overlook its centrality for communists' resistance strategy and nation-building practices. This work draws upon recent studies of gender and war. Feminist scholars have noted that the Second World War "acted as a clarifying moment, one that has revealed systems of gender in flux and thus highlighted their workings." Emergency conditions of total war, they claim, destabilized all social arrangements and opened up possibilities "to either alter or reinforce existing notions of gender, the nation, and the family."4 This was perhaps nowhere more obvious than in Yugoslavia, which saw a war of resistance against the invaders together with an explosion of interethnic violence, a civil war, and a social revolution. Women's mass military engagement took place in such turmoil, posing a challenge to traditional gender norms. Accordingly, the definition of womanhood became one of the focal points of contestation among multiple rival factions. While their opponents tried to discredit the Partisans by making the female fighter a favorite target of their propaganda, the Communist Party's leaders took pride in proclaiming the birth of the "new woman" 4 Margaret R. Higonnet et al., "Introduction," in Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars, ed. Margaret R. Higonnet et al. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 5. 3

and, with her, the dawn of a new era of equality. The present study explores this flux of the gender system, the ways that the Partisan leadership attempted to stabilize and fix it, and the ways it was recast in the process. Despite the obvious expansion of women's roles and the Party's egalitarianism, I argue, gender remained one of the central organizational principles and one of the major delineators of hierarchies in the Partisan movement and the nascent communist state alike. The reformulation of gender ideals and norms during the war happened primarily on three levels: on the level of political rhetoric, the level of institutions, and the level of daily practice. This study begins by analyzing the rhetoric that Partisan leaders devised to recruit women and justify their active participation in the movement. It shows how their rhetorical strategy rested upon a skillful combination of traditional Balkan culture with a revolutionary idiom. In its appeals to women, the Party consistently stressed its dedication to women's rights and gender equality. Parallel to such statements it also drew on patriarchal folk traditions. For modern purposes of mass mobilization, Party leaders consciously invoked the heroic imagery of freedom fighters from South Slavic folklore, which appealed to the patriotic sentiments of the population. References to the epic lore allowed the Party to establish lineage to the time-honored heritage and assert its authority among the peasantry. The images of epic heroines served to attract women and legitimize the partizanka (female Partisan) in the eyes of the populace. Second, this work examines the institutional basis—in the form of the Antifascist Front of Women (AFZ)—that the leadership developed for women's mobilization. Focusing on the AFZ's wartime history, it shows how in the Partisans' 4

institutional practice, much like in their rhetoric, the revolutionary coexisted with the traditional. Females recruited by the AFZ contributed to the Partisan war effort primarily through an extension of their traditional tasks within the family and village communities: feeding, cleaning, nursing, and caring for others. The Party's mobilizing genius, this study contends, lay precisely in this rhetorical and institutional adaptation of peasant traditions in a distinctly modern way. Through modern organizational devices, the communists put peasant women's age-old labor skills to use in a systematic fashion, transforming local customs of village women supporting their warrior men into instruments of mass participation in modern warfare. But this strategy also had a flipside, as it helped institutionalize old notions of gender difference and the inequality associated with them. Third, I focus on realities on the ground: on daily practice and, in particular, the problems of women's integration into the movement. Without much guidance from Moscow and with no precedents in local history, the leaders in the units had to decide on the spot about such questions as what kind of relations between the sexes would be acceptable; whether Partisans would be allowed to marry and spouses to serve together in the same unit; who would do the laundry, cooking, and other chores, etc. Delving into these mundane issues concerning the division of labor and regulations of sexual conduct, this study exposes a gap between egalitarian declarations on the top and realities on the ground. It sheds light on the power of old patterns and the prevalence of a belief in "natural" and fixed gender characteristics and duties in the movement. 5

The story of the phenomenon of women's mass participation in the Partisan struggle would not be complete without an examination of its postwar legacy. The fourth level of analysis, then, entails a study of memory. I look at the ways that the partizanka was memorialized in Yugoslavia's culture, tracing her journey from the revolutionary icon par excellence in the early postwar years to the oblivion of the present. The crumbling of the partizanka's icon through growing sexualization and marginalization, we shall see, mirrored the gradual erosion of Yugoslav communism and, more generally, of the Yugoslav nation itself. Gender, Revolution, and War in Yugoslavia: Literature Review Scholars have documented the multiple roles that women played in the Partisan movement but have not examined the role of gender as an organizing principle. For Yugoslav historians during the communist era, the victorious Partisan struggle—as the foundational myth of the ensuing communist regime—was in many respects the most privileged topic. In the first decades following the war, historiography was meant to serve the revolution and the building of socialism. As Stevan Pavlowitch put it, "history was then made to begin when the Communist Party went over to the resistance in 1941. All the rest was prehistory leading to that event."5 The state and the Communist Party encouraged, commissioned, and funded scholarship concentrating on the so-called National Liberation War. A result of these research incentives from above is a vast corpus of publications on the Partisan movement. Some focus on a particular region, district or even a village, others are more comprehensive. Almost 5 Stevan Pavlowitch, The Improbable Survivor: Yugoslavia and its Problems, 1918-1988 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1988), 129. 6

every Partisan brigade has a historical study dedicated to it. Profuse as they are, though, these academic studies constitute a small fraction of what may be termed a hyperproduction of texts on the war and revolution. There exists a plethora of published primary and secondary sources, including memoirs, collections of documents and data, reminiscences of Partisan fighters, conference proceedings, compilations of Tito's and other leaders' speeches, reprints of wartime Partisan publications, and anthologies on war-related subjects. Accordingly, there is also a considerable literature, both documentary and historiographic, on women in the Partisan movement. It includes a volume on women of Yugoslavia as a whole,6 several separate volumes on female participants from each of the republics of the Yugoslav federation,7 innumerable contributions on women 6 Dusanka Kovacevic, ed, Borbeni put zena Jugoslavije (Beograd: Leksikografski zavod "Sveznanje," 1972). This collection provides a brief historical overview of Yugoslav women's participation in the workers' movement and the National Liberation Struggle, which is followed by discussions of women in each of the six republics separately. 7 Bosnia-Herzegovina—For a collection of reminiscences see Rasim Hurem, ed., Zene Bosne i Hercegovine u narodnooslobodilackoj borbi 1941-1945. godine: sjecanja ucesnika (Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 1977). Croatia—For a collection of primary documents, see Marija Soljan, ed., Zene Hrvatske u narodnooslobodilackoj borbi (Zagreb: Izdanje glavnog odbora, Savez Zenskih Drustava Hrvatske, 1955). Also, there is a collection of documents on Croatian women's participation in the worker's movement. See Marija Soljan, ed., Zene Hrvatske u radnickom pokretu do aprila hiljadu devetsto cetrdesetprve (Zagreb: Konferencija za drustvenu aktivnost zena Hrvatske, 1967). Macedonia—For a documentary source see Vera Veskovik-Vangeli and Marija Jovanovik, ed, Zenite na Makedonija vo NOV: Zbornik na dokumenti za ucestvoto na zenite od Makedonija vo narodnoosloboditelnata vojna i revolucijata 1941-1945. (Skopje: Institut za nacionalna istorija, 1976). For historiographic interpretations see Vera Veskovik-Vangeli, Zenata vo osloboditelnite borbi na Makedoniia 1893-1945. (Skopje: Kultura, 1990), and idem., Zenata vo revolucijata na Makedonija 1941-1945. (Skopje: Institut za nacionalna istorija, 1982). Montenegro—Jovan Bojovic, et. al., Zene Crne Gore u Revolucionarnom pokretu 1918-1945 (Titograd: Istorijski Institut u Titogradu, 1969). Serbia—For a documentary source see Bosa Cvetic et al, ed. Zene Srbije u NOB. For Vojvodina, see Danilo Kecic, ed., Zene Vojvodine u ratu i revoluciji, 1941-1945 (Novi Sad: Institut za istoriju, 1984). Slovenia—For a collection of documents, memoirs and articles see Stana Gerk, Ivka Kriznar, and Stefanija Ravnikar-Podvebsek, eds., Slovenke v Narodnoosvobodilnem boju: Zbornik dokumentov, clankov in spominov, Vols. 1-2, (Ljubljana: Zavod 'Borec', 1970). 7

from specific localities,8 books on the partizankas from select units, 9 as well as biographies of the most prominent female leaders.10 Although professional historians did contribute important pieces, a good portion of this literature was written by former participants and intended for broad audiences. It is then not surprising that these works vary in scholarly rigor as much as they vary in scope. What they do have in common—besides glorifying the valor of female Partisans and emphasizing the "leading role of the Communist Party"—is the dominant ideological interpretation, which greatly limits their analytical and explanatory powers, reducing even the more sophisticated among them to fact-heavy, dull, propagandistic accounts. This interpretation is predicated on a sequence of interrelated assumptions: first, resistance to Nazism was indivisible from communist revolution. Second, the emancipation of women was an inevitable byproduct of the revolution. Third, not only did the Party set the foundations for the future improvement of women's social position, but it also managed to "abolish inequality" in the Partisan movement and to provide an exemplary working model of women's liberation in practice well before the war and revolution were over. 8 See, for example, Anka Brozicevic-Rikica, ed., Zene Vinodola u NOB-u: Zbornik radova (Rijeka: Koordinacioni odbor za njegovanje i razvoj tradicije NOB-a, 1986); Radivoj Acanski, Zene kulske opstine u radnickom pokretu, NOR-u i socijalistickoj revoluciji (Kula: Konferencija za drustveni polozaj i aktivnost zena, 1985); Ruza Gligovic-Zekovic, San i vidici: zene niksickog kraja u NOB (Niksic: Organizacija zena i SUBNOR, 2000), and others. 9 Desanka Stojic, Prva zenska partizanska ceta (Karlovac: Historijski Arhiv u Karlovcu, 1987); Spiro Lagator and Milorad Cukic, Partizanke Prve Proleterske (Beograd: "Eksport-pres" i Konferencija za pitanja drustvenog polozaja zena u Jugoslaviji, 1978); Stana Dzakula Nidzovic, Zene borci NOR-a Sedme banijske udarne brigade (Cacak: Bajic, 1999); Ljiljana Bulatovic, Bila jednom ceta devojacka (Beograd: Nova knjiga, 1985), Obrad Egic, Zene borci Druge Proleterske Dalmatinske narodnooslobodilacke udarne brigade (Zadar: "Narodni List," 1983), etc. 10 For biographies of individual women, see Stanko Mladenovic, Spasenija Cana Babovic (Belgrade: Rad 1980); Milenko Predragovic, Kata Pejnovic: Zivotniput i revolucionarno delo (Gornji Milanovac: Decje novine, 1978), etc. 8

With the fall of communism, this literature has lost much of its appeal. Yet no new local scholarship has emerged to replace it, and almost nothing has been done on women and the Partisan movement from the perspective of the insights of feminist scholarship. The only exception is the work of the late Lydia Sklevicky, whose study of the Croatian AFZ provides the most balanced and thoroughly researched account of women's organizational activity during the war available. Unfortunately, due to her untimely death, Sklevicky's revisionist work remains unfinished.11 In the Anglo-American scholarship on World War II in Yugoslavia, works on British and American policy towards Tito's Partisans and Draza Mihailovic's Chetniks prevail.12 Very little has been done on other aspects of the war and very few studies attempt to combine political analyses with social or cultural ones. The memoirs and polemics written by the Allied operatives in wartime Yugoslavia, who often espoused the cause of either the Partisans or the Chetniks, have long been favorite sources of information on the Yugoslav resistance in the West. Much of this literature was produced in the Cold War context, its chief question being how the Allies came to 11 See Lydia Sklevicky, Organizirana djelatnost zena Hrvatske za vrijeme Narodnooslobodilacke borbe 1941-1945 (Zagreb: Institut za historiju radnickog pokreta Hrvatske, 1984). A selection of Sklevicky's works, which includes her unfinished dissertation, has been posthumously published in Zagreb. See Sklevicky, Konji, Zene, Ratovi (Zagreb: Zenska infoteka, 1996). 12 The standard reference work in this respect is Walter R. Roberts, Tito, Mihailovic, and the Allies, 1941-1945 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1973). See also Phyllis Auty and Richard Clogg eds., British Policy towards Wartime Resistance in Yugoslavia and Greece (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1975); Mark Wheeler, Britain and the War for Yugoslavia (Boulder: East European Monographs, 1980); Ford, Kirk, OSS and the Yugoslav Resistance, 1943-1945 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992); Barker, Thomas M. Social Revolutionaries and Secret Agents: The Corinthian Slovene Partisans and Britain's Special Operations Executive (Boulder: East European Monographs, 1990); Heather Williams, Parachutes, Patriots, and Partisans: The Special Operations Executive and Yugoslavia, 1941-1945 (London: C. Hurst, 2003), etc. 13 On the Partisans see the writings of Fitzroy Maclean, Stephen Clissold, William Deakin, William Jones, Franklin A. Lindsay, and Basil Davidson. Among others, David Martin and Michael Lees are advocates of the Chetnik cause. Some of these works are highly imbalanced. In contrast, the best and most comprehensive scholarly account in English on the Chetniks is Jozo Tomasevich, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: The Chetniks (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975). To the best of my knowledge, there is no comparable work on the Partisans. 9

transfer their support from the royalist Chetnik movement to the communist Partisans. Only lately have different kinds of studies begun to emerge. The fall of communism and disintegration of Tito's Yugoslavia stimulated new approaches to the country's turbulent history. Newer studies seek to reexamine the war and Yugoslavia's past in general with an eye to nationality problems.14 Yet this scholarship, much as the Cold War works that preceded it, remains largely gender-blind. The truly miniscule body of works on women in the Partisan movement constitutes a separate and isolated subsection in the Anglo-American historiography on wartime Yugoslavia15 Similar to the Yugoslav historiography of Tito's era, this literature has explored women's roles and experiences and the influence of the revolutionary war on women, but has not asked questions about gender, thus in a way affirming the conventional view that women belong to a separate sphere. The sole English-language monograph is Barbara Jancar-Webster's Women & Revolution in Yugoslavia (1990). Although valuable for broaching the subject in the West, this work unfortunately has several weaknesses, one of them being its limited source base. As 14 The literature on interethnic relations during World War II has been preoccupied by the issues of culpability of individual nationalities for genocidal attacks, ethnic cleansing campaigns and/or collaboration with the occupiers. This literature is often rather unbalanced and will not be cited here. Among the earliest works to look at the issues of ethno-nationalism during World War II and adhere to scholarly standards, are Aleksa Djilas, The Contested Country: Yugoslav Unity and Communist Revolution, 1919-1953 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991) and Jill A. Irvine, The Croat Question: Partisan Politics in the Formation of the Yugoslav Socialist State (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993). For a more recent look see Marko A. Hoare, Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia: The Partisans and the Chetniks, 1941-1943 (London: Oxford University Press, 2006). 15 The English-language literature includes one monograph and one dissertation (the latter focusing on Croatia exclusively), and several articles by the same authors. See Barbara Jancar-Webster, Women and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945, (Denver: Arden Press, 1990); Mary E. Reed, "The Anti-Fascist Front of Women and the Communist Party in Croatia: Conflicts Within the Resistance," Women in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, Ed. Tova Yedlin, (New York: Praeger, 1980), 128-39; and idem., "Croatian Women in the Yugoslav Partisan Resistance, 1941-1945" (Ph.D. Diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1980). Besides the Anglo-American literature, there is a German-language monograph on Partisan women. See Barbara Wiesinger, Partisaninnen: Widerstand in Jugoslawien (1941-1945) (Koln: Bohlau Verlag Koln, 2008). 10

Full document contains 381 pages
Abstract: The mass participation of women in the communist-led Yugoslav Partisan resistance is one of the most remarkable phenomena of World War II. Drawing on an array of diverse sources--including archival records of the Communist Party, Partisan military, and the Antifascist Front of Women, wartime press and propaganda, participant reminiscences and diaries, and Partisan folklore--this study explores the history and postwar memory of the phenomenon. It is, more broadly, concerned with changes in gender norms and values caused by the war, revolution, and the establishment of the communist regime, which claimed to have solved the "woman question" and instituted equality between the sexes. The reformulation of gender ideals and norms during the war happened primarily on three levels: on the level of political rhetoric, the level of institutions, and the level of daily practice. This study begins by analyzing the rhetoric that Partisan leaders devised to recruit women and justify their active participation in the movement. It shows how their rhetorical strategy rested upon a skillful combination of traditional Balkan culture with a revolutionary idiom. In its appeals to women, the Party consistently stressed its dedication to women's rights and gender equality. Parallel to such statements it also drew on patriarchal folk traditions. For modern purposes of mass mobilization, Party leaders consciously invoked the heroic imagery of freedom fighters from South Slavic folklore, which appealed to the patriotic sentiments of the population. References to the epic lore allowed the Party to establish lineage to the time-honored heritage and assert its authority among the peasantry. The images of epic heroines served to attract women and legitimize the partizanka (female Partisan) in the eyes of the populace. Second, this work examines the institutional basis--in the form of the Antifascist Front of Women (AFZ)--that the leadership developed for women's mobilization. Focusing on the AFZ's wartime history, it shows how in the Partisans' institutional practice, much like in their rhetoric, the revolutionary coexisted with the traditional. Females recruited by the AFZ contributed to the Partisan war effort primarily through an extension of their traditional tasks within the family and village communities: feeding, cleaning, nursing, and caring for others. The Party's mobilizing genius, this study contends, lay precisely in this rhetorical and institutional adaptation of peasant traditions in a distinctly modem way. Through modern organizational devices, the communists put peasant women's age-old labor skills to use in a systematic fashion, transforming local customs of village women supporting their warrior men into instruments of mass participation in modem warfare. But this strategy also had a flipside, as it helped institutionalize old notions of gender difference and the inequality associated with them. Third, I focus on realities on the ground: on daily practice and, in particular, the problems of women's integration into the movement. Without much guidance from Moscow and with no precedents in local history, the leaders in the units had to decide on the spot about such questions as what kind of relations between the sexes would be acceptable; whether Partisans would be allowed to marry and spouses to serve together in the same unit; who would do the laundry, cooking, and other chores, etc. This study exposes a gap between egalitarian declarations on the top and realities on the ground. It sheds light on the power of old patterns and the prevalence of a belief in "natural" and fixed gender characteristics and duties in the movement. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the legacy of women's wartime mobilization. I look at the ways that the partizanka was memorialized in Yugoslavia's culture, tracing her journey from the revolutionary icon par excellence in the early postwar years to the oblivion of the present. I explore both the officially sanctioned memory of the female Partisan--as promoted by state-sponsored commemorations, historiography, and memorials--and the emergence of alternative, competing images in cinematography and literature. The crumbling of the partizanka's icon, through growing sexualization and marginalization, mirrored the gradual erosion of Yugoslav communism and, with it, of the Yugoslav nation itself. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)