by Ivana Hadjievska
The magazine Makedonka, an official organ of the Women’s Antifascist Front (WAF) of Macedonia, was issued in the period 1944-1952. Published by a state-building mass organization, it served as a medium that propagated the party views with the goal of the ‘top-down’ women’s emancipation in socialist Macedonia. In the period between 1944 and 1946, the magazine linked the political emancipation of women with the heroism of their choice to join the National Liberation Struggle (1941-1945). In this ‘heroic stage’ of WAF, antifascism was presented as the major ideological predisposition of politically aware women. In the issues of the magazine published after 1947, the ‘heroic stage’ was gradually abandoned, and the ‘shock worker’s stage’ of WAF moved to the forefront. Then, women’s political emancipation was linked to women’s mass participation in voluntary work actions, and the inclusion of women in different economic sectors was heavily stimulated. The chief political messages of the magazine during this stage, with respect to achieving equality, consisted of depictions of women as workers at workplaces that used to employ only men. In this blog post, I reflect on the magazine as a source for the political representation of women in the context of a planned economy. Three types of articles were most interesting for me in this endeavor: political speeches by WAF officials, reportages from the workers’ brigades, and stylized profiles of women workers.
In 1947, planned production was introduced in Yugoslavia in the shape of the Five Year Plan for industrialization and electrification of the state (1947-1951). The implementation of this intensive postwar economic program significantly impacted the everyday life of citizens. All WAF activities were adapted to the state economic policy, and the magazine Makedonka highlighted participation and experiences of women in the voluntary work actions in the infrastructural construction, in the competitions to overfulfill the factory quotas and in other measures that contributed towards successful fulfillment of the Five-Year Plan. In the period between 1947 and 1951, thus, a new female figure was at the center of attention in the magazine: the woman shock worker. During this period, women’s political equality was equated with their ability to get involved in the economy and industry as workers.
In the articles dedicated to women shock workers, equality was often understood literally, through comparisons between female and male physical labour. At the same time, representations of women as workers in sectors and workplaces that were not considered typical for women were deliberately introduced in the discourse.
“We cannot but remember those awful days when we, as women, had no rights, when we were only women, not people, when we were just exploited in the workforce, paid less than our male comrades (…). Look at women now, working side by side with men when repairing an embankment, never losing pace, never falling behind. Look at the fields, and you will see women, ploughing, digging, women driving tractors. Look at the homes and you will see women spinning and weaving. They all work with reinvigorated zeal, for the new country, for the new and free republic.”
In these texts, the inclusion of women in the production was explicitly related to equality. The magazine gave additional political value to the economic activity of women by regularly using propagandist formulas about women shock workers in the role of ‘state-builders’:
“Next to the names of our comrade workers are the names of our female comrades whose work and love for work have demonstrated how much they love this country, and have proven that they are determined state-builders. In the Bitola district, women have given 14.587 working days, which translated in money is about 661.755 dinars.”
In 1947, communist politician Vera Aceva wrote: “Let us include as many women as possible in the production.” In her speech, the leader of the WAF of Yugoslavia, Mitra Mitrović, said the following about the Five-Year Plan: “Above all, women’s equality here is not just words on paper. This equality must be reflected in the entire life of every woman, but first of all in her economic situation.” Further on in the speech, she explained that the state had proved its democratic quality in the solution to the woman question, and presented the planned economy as a new battle. In this battle, just like in the struggle against fascism, when women won their rights, they would have to win again, but this time to climb from the least paid positions in the factories to positions for qualified workers.
Locally, in areas with less developed industry, this entailed activation of women’s labour within the household (perceived and acknowledged mostly through handcrafted production of household goods), or its transferral to the sphere of the state-run economy. The Governing board of WAF opened workshops for handicraft products in Bitola, Kruševo, and Singjelić, “in order to produce folk handicraft products, but also to activate this extinct craft with the involvement of women” and Makedonka reported about it:
“One of the important conditions that need to be fulfilled to achieve women’s equality is their economic activity. This initiative of the Governing board of WAF should be supported by all, by the local and district boards and by every single one of our members and activists, by every woman in Macedonia, whether Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish or Vlach.”
In the issues from this period, a new rubric appeared: articles reporting from various places in the country about women’s experiences when searching for employment in the economic sectors that used to employ only the male workforce. The titles used to begin with: “the first woman tractorist”, “the first woman digger driver”, “the first woman metal worker”, etc. Makedonka often reported about women who had decided to get a job in a factory or to leave the village and their village life to become industrial workers. An excellent example is the article reporting about a girl Lenče from the factory Macedonian Onyx in Skopje. At the age of 17, she found employment in the plant for milling marble:
“Lenče had heard that the marble factory was looking for workers. But there was no mention that women could apply. Nonetheless, she crossed the threshold of the factory with firm determination that she would get a job.”
In addition to the articles reporting about young women workers and their successes in the factories, another rubric was introduced, dedicated to women managers of factories. These contents were given the central space in the magazine and presented the work of middle-aged women. They were featured as the embodiments of the fulfilled social expectations towards career women as good workers, successful managers, and mothers.
In the course of the Five-Year Plan, the women attending the WAF meetings were more and more interested to debate the following social issue relevant to women workers: childcare organized in kindergartens and other forms of labour socialization with regards to childcare. In 1949, the magazine informed that a new regulation was passed that broadened and elaborated the rights and protection of employed mothers and mothers of newborns. These social policies were of great importance for women’s participation in the economy, especially because society experienced women’s equality with regard to their status as workers. The new iconography represented women in the media in different social roles as equal participants in the state building, founded upon communist principles. Those representations of women workers in the magazine can also point towards a wager of communist ideology. According to that wager, equality between women and men is a clearly defined postulate given to society in advance, not a goal that was yet to be reached. Contemporary research of those historical experiences of Macedonian women holds great epistemic potential, as it can broaden the discussion towards the intertwining between state ideology and economy.
 This text is an excerpt from published research: Hadjievska, Ivana. 2022. ‘Political advancement of women’: forms of political participation of women in socialist Macedonia (1944-1953). In Invisible archives: Makedonkа – Organ of the WAF (1944-1952), historical experiences and cultural memory, ed. by Ivana Hadjievska and Jana Kocevska, 59-101. Skopje: CINIK; Heinrich Boell Stiftung-Sarajevo. The research was part of the project “Invisible archives” (see: nevidliviarhivi.mk)
 The terms ‘udarnik’ (‘shock worker’), shock workers brigades, and shock working were part of the communist concept of community-building through selfless, enthusiastic, and heroic labour, mostly in voluntary collective work actions on the construction of the infrastructure, or individually – when exceeding the daily quotas in the industrial production. The terms were most commonly used in the public discourse of the socialist states after World War Two, especially in the economic activities related to the planned economy. In socialist Yugoslavia, a shock worker was an eminent, highly productive worker or a ‘hero of labour’. Within the individual enterprises or on a national level, workers’ competitions were organized for these shock workers, especially to mark the holidays such as 1 May, (the May the First competition) or on 8 March (the Eight of March competition). The most productive workers were awarded medals or their work was recognized in a different way.
 Nie ja gradime našata tatkovina [We are building our fatherland], Year 2, No 14 (December 1945), pp. 22-24
 Blagojka Demnieva, ‘Nekoi rezultati od prvomajskoto natprevaruvanje’ [‘Some results of the May the First competition’], Year 3, No 19 (May 1946), pp. 4-5
 Vera Aceva, ‘Da vklučime što povejke ženi vo proizvodtsvoto’ [‘Let us include as many women as possible in the production’], Year 4, No 32 (June 1947), pp. 1-2.
 Izvadok od članakot na Mitra Mitrović: što dava petgodišniot plan na ženite i što traži od niv? [An excerpt from Mira Mitrović’s article: What does the Five-Year Plan give women and what does it require from them?], Year 4, No 35 (September 1947), p. 8.
 R. Gjorgovska, ‘Ženski rabotilnici za domašna izrabotka’ [‘Women’s workshops for handcraft’], Year 4, No 35 (September 1947) p. 6
 Eg.: Angelina Dragutinović, ‘Traktoristka [Tractorist] Milica Hristova’, No 18 (May 1946), 6; Traktoristkata Olga Hristiovska stana brigadir [The tractorist Olga Hristovska has become a brigadier], Year 5, No 40-41 (February-March 1948), p. 11; Nevena Teohareva, ‘Šefka stana mehaničar’ [‘Šefka has become a mechanic’], Year 5, No 42 (April 1948), pp. 5-6.
 Nevena Teohareva, ‘Videnka’, Year 5, No 40-41 (February-March 1948), pp. 14-15; Nevena Teohareva, ‘Golema želba imav da rabotam vo fabrika – zborue Persa Stojanovska’ [‘I had a great desire to work in a factory -says Persa Stojanovska’], Ibid, p. 16. Nevena Teohareva, ‘Od ovčarka – električen varilec’ [‘From a shepherdess to an electric welder’], Year 5, No 42 (April 1948), pp. 5-6.
 N.K., ‘Lenče’, Year 5, No 46-47 (August-September 1948), pp. 10-11.
 B. B. ‘Bogdanka Georgievska – od obična rabotnička prerasna vo dobar rakovoditel na fermentacionite zavodi vo Skopje’ [‘Bogdanka Georgievska – from an ordinary worker to a good manager of the Fermentations Institute in Skopje’], Year 6, No 68 (July 1950), p. 10; and B.B. ‘Angelina Mihailova – pretsedatel na rabotničkiot sovet na fabrikata za proizvodstvo na cigari vo Skopje’ [‘Angelina Mihailova – the President of the workers council in the tobacco factory in Skopje’], Year 6, No 69 (August 1950), pp. 8-9.
 So novata uredba na sojuznata vlada im se dozvoluva na zaposlenite ženi prtavilno odgleduvanje na decata [With the new regulation of the Federal Government working women are enabled to raise their children correctly], Year 5, No 55 (1949), p. 3.
- Makedonka – Organ na Antifashistickiot front na zenite od Makedonija, No 43, Year 5 (May 1948), Cover page: Lenche Angelova – five-time work hero of the factory “Kuzman Josifivski-Pitu” in Skopje. Image credit: Digital National Library of Serbia (Digital NBS). https://digitalna.nb.rs/view/URN:NB:RS:ND_4CF06BD702E6089481F093226CC82C09-1948-05-B043
- Angelina Dragutinović, ‘Traktoristka [Tractorist] Milica Hristova’, No 18 (May 1946), 6. Image credit: Digital National Library of Serbia (Digital NBS). https://digitalna.nb.rs/view/URN:NB:RS:ND_4CF06BD702E6089481F093226CC82C09-1946-03-B017-18
Ivana Hadjievska is a historian and a researcher. She works as a younger associate at The State Archives of North Macedonia – Section in Bitola. She received her master’s degree in the field of economic history (“The human condition of industrial workers in Vardar Macedonia 1918-1941”, Faculty of Philosophy in Skopje, 2021).